# UK vs US use of imperial measures

#### Lowglow

##### Newly Enlightened
I'm interested to see how we differ in day to day use of measurement. To me the UK seems a bit chaotic - but it works (sort of).

Give you a few examples.

Weight - UK uses stones as most popular (like on Weight Watchers etc) but medical use is kilos.
Heights are most always imperial except for medical use.
Use inches when giving generic smaller measurements but move over to metric when the tape measure comes out.
Never use fraction of an inch its always mm for smaller measurement.
Temperature is Celcius for cold and then Fahrenheit when it gets warmer (for some older people) and Celcius only for all younger people. Thermometers without both are not popular.
Food measurement we use tablespoons and teaspoons but not cups - its litres. Strange one that.
Road signs are yards and miles but we don't use yards outside of roads - and children are not taught any imperial its always metric. I don't understand this myself.
Cyclists and runners use km, walkers use miles.

Sometimes it's confusing like I bought some bungee cords where the slack length was in mm and maximum stretch length was in inches!

Myself I'm pretty much as above but I primarily use Fahrenheit as it works better for me (finer graduation of whole numbers).

What's it like where you are?

#### Toulouse42

##### Enlightened
Hi Lowglow. Yes it's pretty strange over here. I'm lucky in that I was at school when metric was introduced so I use imperial for day to day reference but metric for calculations. Plus I'm old enough that I still refer to Centigrade rather than Celcius. I'm pretty good at translating one to the other in my head. One reference I can't accept is BCE instead of BC and CE instead of AD.

Oh, and the Americans have different weighs and measures. The US gallon is not the same as a British gallon. Apparently they still use the old Queen Anne measures.

#### Dave D

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
Here in Spain everything is metric.

I assume that runners and cyclists measure their distances in metres because 10Km sounds more impressive than 6 miles!😆

#### bykfixer

##### Flashaholic
I was on a metric road project when the US was converting to metric again and had a conversion chart on my clipboard. Centegrade was the term used for temperature the first time we converted around 1977. Celcious was the term the next time. Then one day "nope we're not converting".

Now in the 70's Uncle Sam required a certain number of metric screws in automobiles. While taking off an exhaust manifold on my '77 Cutlass there were 9/16 bolts and one 13mm. Being exhaust manifold bolts are hard to remove it takes the correct size socket to remove them. Too loose and you round the corners. I found out the hard way that 9/16" and 13mm are not the same.

In the 70's there were comercials during Saturday morning cartoons called . It was various subjects like grammar, how congress works on one was about metric vs standard (some call Emperial)

I still use some of what I learned there to this day.

#### alpg88

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
Pretty much every car sold in usa has metric and standard nuts, bolts. every mechanic has a metric and standard set of wrenches, sockets. Our soda bottles are 1, 2 and 3 liters, vodka sold in liters or milliliters, milk in quarts, and pints, beer in oz, gas in gallons, cocaine, heroin, meth on streets sold in grams, but pot is in oz and pounds, i'm not a user, never was, however even school kids today know it, which is sad, but it is reality, gun calibers are in inches. and mm.
So we are not as messed up as UK but we have both systems at the same time as well.

#### jabe1

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
Pretty much every car sold in usa has metric and standard nuts, bolts. every mechanic has a metric and standard set of wrenches, sockets.
So we are not as messed up as UK but we have both systems at the same time as well.
And those of us who have worked on the older British stuff have some in whitworth.

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
Width of my thumb is an inch; handy in the field, but smaller than an inch I go to metric because mm is so much simpler.

#### scalpel_ninja

##### Enlightened
Fascinating. Everything in my 1960 Morris Mini is Imperial.

#### fuyume

##### Enlightened
The US does not now and has never used UK Imperial units. The UK Imperial system was not established until 1826, well after the US was an independent nation and had already won two wars against the UK.

The US is officially a metric nation and has been since 1893, although the US commonly uses "US customary units" (which are defined in law by their metric equivalents). The use of SAE standard (inch) tools in the US is pretty rare at this point, most fasteners having long since been converted to metric for global cost savings. I keep my SAE tools in a separate toolbox, because they are almost never used. Even 25-30 years ago, when I bought them, the use of them was already on the decline).

The UK Imperial and US customary units differ significantly, although they both have a common ancestor in medieval English units.

That being said, metric units have no advantages over traditional units, other than being easier for dummies who can't do complex math to calculate, because they are mostly in Base 10 (technically the ISO system includes the second, which defies Base 10), because the metric units (other than the Kelvin/Celsius scale) are entirely arbitrary and have almost no relationship to human scale. A lot of people are six feet tall; almost no one is two meters tall. A pound is a good meal; a kilogram feeds 2.2 people. A cup is a drink, and a pint is a beer; a litre is more than anyone can reasonably drink in one go.

Remember, the basis of the metric system is French, and a metre was defined as "one ten millionth the distance between the North Pole and the Equator on a meridian running through Paris".

#### fuyume

##### Enlightened
One thing that has always amused me is that even in Germany, socket wrenches and ratchets use the US 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", 1" drive standards, even though the sockets may be metric.

#### fuyume

##### Enlightened
When I write recipes, I use a common practice of equating a US cup with 240 mL, even though it is really about 237 mL, because it breaks down easier into 1/4 cup = 60 mL, 1/3 c = 80 mL, 1/2 cup = 120 mL.

Similarly, we make 1 US oz = 30 grams or 30 mL, even though it is really 28.35. It makes writing recipes for a global audience easier.

A teaspoon is globally 5 mL and a tablespoon is 15 mL.

#### jabe1

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
One thing that has always amused me is that even in Germany, socket wrenches and ratchets use the US 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4", 1" drive standards, even though the sockets may be metric.
I've always wondered about that, and when young, could never get a straight answer from anyone. Now I just don't concern myself with it. 😊

#### alpg88

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
Pretty much everything in construction, buildings, as well as hvac is standart, has been for over 20 years i'm in business, you will not fix any car sold in usa if you do not have a sea tool set, Pretty ridiculous statement that use of SAE standard (inch) tools in the US is pretty rare at this point, it is absolutely false.

Last edited:

#### TPA

##### Enlightened
As a child of the 1980s in the USA, I was told "By the time you graduate, the whole world will be metric.", so they only taught us metric. They were correct...the whole world, except the USA, went metric. Even the UK for most things. The USA, not even close. Growing up speed limit signs were in both US/Metric here. Not anymore. All US-only.

I still don't know the US system that well, nor do I really bother with it all that much. I operate in metric internally and translate it out to Freedom Units when I need to converse with the various trades and contractors. I also use 24-hour clocks too.

To add more confusion to the mix, don't forget nautical/aviation units. Knots, Statute Miles, etc. Aviation uses BOTH US miles and Statute Miles, sometimes in the same line of information.

#### jabe1

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
knots, fathoms, nautical miles and cable lengths.

#### Dave_H

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
I am comfortable in both systems but tend to use Imperial for certain things e.g. food, and Metric for others (mostly technical, engineering).

Oddly, when Canada was metricated (metrified?) decades ago, some regulations came in to specify retail food weights in metric though does not preclude the old imperial values. You can get pork chops for \$2.99 per pound or \$6.59 per kilogram.

I still use Fahrenheit for indoor/outdoor temperature although weather reports are always Celcius.

Some of the hard conversions look a bit strange, jug of windshield washer 3.78 litres (one U.S. gallon).

Dave

#### bykfixer

##### Flashaholic
We stll have a quarter pound cheesburger in the US. It's called Royale with cheese in some other countries.

#### Chauncey Gardiner

##### Flashaholic
We stll have a quarter pound cheesburger in the US. It's called Royale with cheese in some other countries.

Royale with cheese? They don't call it a Quarter Pounder? Why is that?

#### alpg88

##### Flashlight Enthusiast
cuz they use metric system, lol