The Digital Shutterbug (aryx) wrote,
The Digital Shutterbug

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We Americans are a weird lot.
Most of us absolutely refuse to use the metric system, "because it's too hard to learn."
Yeah, learning to count to ten is a real hassle, isn't it?
I mean, remembering that 12 inches make a foot, and while 16 ounces make a pound, 128 fluid ounces make a gallon.
So what do we have to do? We have to ease into it. We need to get the general population used to the idea of saying milli- or kilo. It's not enough that we already use some of the terms needed to construct metric words. For example, the penny is worth one cent. Cent is the prefix for 1/100th. One cent is 1/100th of a dollar.
Fortunately, we have a population with a drug problem.
Most druggies know what a kilo is, you never see them asking someone to convert 3 kilos into pounds.
We're trying to be subtle about it.
Most people don't even think of buying soda in quarts anymore. But they sure know how much a liter is.
But see, we Americans make it more difficult on ourselves.
As I've said, cent means 1/100th. So how come it is that Century means 100 years? We got decade right, after all, deca means ten.
And going even further, Millenium should mean 1/1000th of a year, as milli- is the prefix for 1/1000th. But instead, it means 1000 years. It should be kilenium!
I can see where we might have gotten some of our errors. Perhaps it's the Romans' fault... ancient Rome that is. The symbol for one hundred in Roman Numerals is C, so someone may have gotten confused with the centi- thing, as it starts with c, and made century the word for 100 years. After all, a C-note is one hundred dollars!
This same theory holds well for Millenium, too, as the Roman Number for 1000 is M, so they thought milli was 1000 instead of 1/1000th.
The other way we're trying to subtley get our citizens to use the metric system is by giving them computers.
Here, we talk about kilobits per second, or gigabytes of disc space, and megapixels in screen sizes.
We started off slow, though. It used to be kilohertz, now it's gigahertz. Once upon a time, it was 16K of RAM (or 16 kilobytes). Now we're well into the gigabyte range for disc-space, and soon we'll be breaching the terabyte edge (for the common person, there are a few of us (not me) who already have these larger disc-spaces filled with porn and recipes for pork).
But even here, we're messing with peoples' minds. After all, a kilobyte should mean 1000 bytes. Does it? No, it means 1024 bytes. It's easier to fudge on the base 10 counting system than the binary or hexadecimal.
It's kind of annoying that those of us who can and do use the metric system are always asked to translate from metric to imperial. When someone asks how tall I am, the simple two meters should suffice. Why is it so hard for them to imagine that I am nothing more than two units of a specific measurement?
I think that I'm going to insist that other people translate imperial into metric whenever they tell me something weighs so much, or this is such-and-such length. Yes, I can translate it myself, but why is it that I'm always the one who has to do all the work?

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