British Units Of Measurement

Great Britain, Observatory

Following a recipe last night, I found myself forced to work between three accepted British units of measurement; grams, ounces and cupfuls. We seem to have adopted some measurement units but none of them completely.

This, of course, is the British way of doing things. After the campaign for women’s suffrage peaked between 1910 and 1914, women went to war and proved they were worthy of the vote. In 1918, voting was brought in – but only partially (women over 30 were allowed, along with other provisos). We joined the European Union – but didn’t accept currency change or all of the regulations.

This morning, I read about another classic British measurement. I quote; ‘Many of David Hockney’s new works are large-scale – some as big as a double decker bus.’ When I was a kid, dinosaurs were always measured in double decker buses. ‘This diplodocus is the height of two double decker buses.’ Why did an item of transport become a standard measurement?

Another is the odd link between the theatre and sports. ‘The stage at the Dominion Theatre is over half the size of a football pitch.’ Never having been to a football match I have no way of judging how big that is. Why not introduce more arbitrary measurements? ‘Oxford Street’s newest store is twice the size of the London’s Zoo’s flamingo enclosure.’

6 comments on “British Units Of Measurement”

  1. Mike says:

    And of course there’s ‘the size of Wales’ as standard unit for countries we’re not so familiar with.

    Except in a geography book I had at school, which must have been leftover British colonial stock: Wales was ‘a small country about a third of the size of Ghana’. (And a potato was ‘a root vegetable similar to a yam’.)

  2. admin says:

    I love those old colonial books, even though they’re jaw-droppingly condescending. See my memoir ‘Paperboy’ on ‘The Cheery Black Folk of Africa’.

  3. Gretta says:

    Here(NZ), unsurprisingly, ‘the length of x amount of rugby fields’ is a standard measurement. Also noticed in the last few years that ‘less than the price of a Big Mac’ has been replaced by ‘less than the price of a cup of coffee’ as a standard measurement of currency, especially by charitable organisations asking for donations.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The price of a cup of coffee is certainly common but now you have to ask what kind/size of a cup? A venti double mocha with whipped cream is a lot more than a regular americano. There is also the trailer truck capacity measure. ‘This amount of bottled beer would fill x number of forty foot containers (with power units, obviously) which would stretch from y to z’ or ‘around the equator three times’. My husband calculated this one once when there was a beer strike here and beer was being imported from Washington state. It was an impressive image and I have since seen it used in similar situations.

  5. Gretta says:

    Large hailstones used to be the size of ball-bearings, now they’re always the size of golf balls. Inflation?

  6. Alan G says:

    Am reminded of my university days now. Sitting impoverished and freezing – grabbed a book (as do we all) from my Landlady’s bookcase. This was in Ireland – books were quite old. But there was a fascinating article there – one sees more bald men than bald women because men wear hats – and hats pull out hair.

    I later asked a beauty therapist about this theory – she gave me one of the two best put-downs I have had. “Wigs”.

    (Oh – the best one was from a dwarf – he told me that he had some work in a pantomime in Brighton. Being an idiot I asked which one. I still cringe at his withering reply).

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