The government proposes to reintroduce the imperial system of weights and measures. There is no support for it and people argue that nobody under 40 understand. One commentator in Times claims to be 80 and never to have used it, which I find hard to believe.
We learnt the imperial system at primary school. The main lasting benefit is that having to do arithmetic in different number bases helped us with numeracy. In fact, only this week, I had occasion to add up a list of figures in pounds, shillings and pence. In my head. Just saying.
I started secondary school in the 1960s. We used the metric system for science and athletics and the imperial system for cookery.
We still talk about height in feet and inches and weight in stones and pounds. We use measures like mpg because we drive in miles and can’t afford to change every road sign in the country. In IT, we used points, picas and lines per inch when designing printouts.
These are anomalies that have survived because there’s no value in changing them for the sake of change.
I still find the old units intuitive for domestic purposes – I can estimate in pounds and ounces and feet and inches rather than grams and centimetres.
So, yes, I would find it helpful if groceries showed imperial as well as metric weights and volumes, but I don’t think that it should be mandatory (and it’s already legal) and it’s very low down on a list of “nice to haves”. There are more important things for the government to be getting on with.
What we really need is an ounce of common sense.
My money’s on a U-turn.