Sunday, July 19, 2009

How many Hectacres in a Rod?

If you had to remember a series of numbers and your ability to buy groceries, build a house or even talk with your neighbor depended on remembering them, which of the following sets would you choose?



Now consider that in the first set, there is no true universal value for the 1.

In the second set, the 100 represents a fixed length which is a specific fraction of the length of the equator.

The first set of numbers is also only used by you and your family.

The second set is used by everyone else on the planet.

Now, which one would you logically choose? Unfortunately those of us living here in the good old U. S. of A are stuck with and hide bound to the first set of numbers that was invented by the British. Even the British have stopped using it.

Originally, a foot in length was exactly that—the length of the King’s foot. Somebody decided to divide that length up for smaller measures so they used 12. Why? Well, because the length of the King’s thumb from the tip to the first knuckle was what they called an inch and on most Kings it required 12 thumb lengths to measure the King’s foot.

Three of the King’s feet combined to make a measure they called a yard (the distance between the King’s nose and his out-stretched hand) and 5,280 of the King’s feet constituted a mile (it had originally been 5,000 Roman feet but the British wanted their own system after they kicked the Romans out). For property measures they even added in the acre and the hectacre, along with some perches and furlongs just to provide a fudge factor.

The British, not the brightest candles on the international cake, in my opinion, were smart enough to dump that ridiculous and cumbersome system of measure for the much simpler and more logical metric measurement system. In metrics, every measure is ten times the size of the previous measure.

We fought two wars with the British to end their heavy-handed influence over us and we became a sovereign nation. So why do we fight so hard to hold on to a British tradition that even the British realize was terminally flawed?

The biggest reason, I am told, is that it is so difficult to convert from a mile to a kilometer—is it 1.62 kilometers to a mile or 62 or .62?

Who cares? A kilometer is a measure just like a mile is a measure. I know that a mile is about the distance between my house and Route 26. I make no effort to convert that distance—it is just a distance and I have a reference for it.

A kilometer is about the distance from my house to the entrance to Bethay Bay. I don’t need to convert it to or from anything—it is just a distance and I have a reference for it.

Even our own military measures things in metrics and most soldiers know that a “klik” is the difference in distance that an artillery round flies when the elevation is adjusted one click. It is almost exactly a kilometer. Why are we holding on to a confusing, antiquated system that the rest of the world, including the British who invented the system, has already given up?

1 comment:

  1. I was looking over your dictionary of Marine words and would like to comment. "assholes and elbows" was not synonymous with "asshole to bellybutton". During the Vietnam era A&E was normally used in conjunction with working parties and referred to what one might observe when men were down on their hands and knees working. When a sergeant put men to work on a task and wanted to emphasis that he wanted it done with more that the normal amount of enthusiasm, he would say "now get to work and I don't want to see nothing but assholes and elbows".

    Asshole to bellybutton was used primarily in boot camp and advanced infantry training when we were being loaded into cattle cars to be moved from one training range to another and they were trying to squeeze as many people as possible in the trailers. Also I recall that command when we were in line for something and they wanted to tighten up the line and move everyone closer together. Formations of men could be either open ranks or close ranks but the unofficial command for the tightest formation for asshole to bellybutton.

    Dennis Fisher
    1st Mar Div