Current Essays

Pintsize, or Give Metrication the Finger On:2006-06-08 17:20:56

Last time I was going on at some length about the wonderful English pint (particularly the English pint of beer) and how much it was superior to the boring, stunted and pedestrian American pint, and now two (count em--TWO!!) people have proven that I not only have hearers but actual listeners! Who pay attention!!!

I got a total of two (count em--TWO!!) emails from these eary people pointing out that Britain (and by contraction England) is now metric, so where did I get off flogging a dead horse in the hope that it was going to blow its own trumpet, the pint having surely gone the way of the hogshead and the firkin.

And that's where the glory and the power of the pint shine (um... and exercise) themselves, because, yes, we are pretty much under the thumb (plus of course nine other vile digits) of the evil French and similar foreign metricators; and Britons have even been prosecuted for (for example) selling a pound of bananas, like that poor guy from Sunderland who fought the Euro-Bureaucrats a few years ago, till he suddenly died. So it's true---for everything but for the pint of beer. The pint is sacred. The pint is our one victory in the long slow defeat by the dark Lords of the metric system. And now we must fight on!!

We need to trumpet the truth: that the metric system was devised in post-french-revolutionary France solely for the purpose of keeping the peasants in a state of total docility, mindlessly counting on their fingers, while the Revolutionary Council employed that other characteristic invention of the times, Madame La Guillotine, to similar effect on the intelligentsia. And that since that time conniving and cynical governments everywhere have tried to sweep away ancient customary units; units hallowed by centuries of the fact that they were actually useful quantities that performed some function in peoples lives: have tried to replace them with the metric system, largely, I suspect, on the grounds that it is cheaper than electorate-wide frontal lobotomy. Use it or loose it they say, and if you compare the mental gymnastics required to ascertain the number of fluid ounces in a gallon (especially for Americans in Britain) or how far it is to Babylon in miles, furlongs, yards, feet and inches, with the mental couch-potatodom of counting repetitively in units that bear a striking resemblance to the Standard Received Number of fingers you can guess what metrication atrophies. Oh they dress it up, they say metrication is so consistent, so logical, so scientific. And here I have 'em, you see some of my best friends are scientists, so I know the horrid truth. I can assure you that scientists are already lost, to the last man, woman, and paradigm! They all count on their fingers, that's why they are so uncharacteristically supportive of government's slimy moves towards metrication, I mean, there's nothing like being already wallowed about in the mire to make you want to pull some other poor bugger in after you.
And if you don't believe me that scientists are already firmly hooked on counting on their fingers let's remember that the proof of the pudding is in its exceptions, and look at the background to a few scientific deviations from the rule of ten. Scientists, particularly computer scientists have been known to count using, not ten, but eight, two or even (with the addition of the first six letters of the alphabet to the first nine numbers plus of course zero) sixteen.

How can I explain scientists with sixteen fingers? Gene splicing perhaps? No, much simpler than that. Eh... But... Let's start with eight. The octal system was, of course, invented by Ada Pascal, Countess of Babbage, after loosing two of her fingers whilst making a rude gesture in a bar-room brawl (note this was in England, in America she would have invented 'nonal', counting to base nine), but to escape from all that sordid Byron-ry look at Binary: counting by twos came, originally, out of a series of daring experiments with piranha fish early in the last century, and finally we have found, with the advent of computers and the so-called hexadecimal system of counting based on the number sixteen, that there has, sadly, been an increasing number of examples of foot mutilation among scientists coupled with a new and widespread inability among them to enter stores through the habit of not wearing shoes. They do however wear shirts often with pocket protectors.

Oh and by the way the rumours circulating on the Hill that I in fact solicited emails just so I didn't have to tell a lie at the beginning of this essay and that I still only managed to get two (count em--TWO!!) are beneath contempt and utterly without foundation: anyone who knows me at all would tell you in an instant that I would most certainly lie at the beginning of this essay or indeed at pretty much any other time, so let's have no more of this nonsense...

Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton.

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