The British System Of Unreliable Measurement
Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships. As a unit of measurement I find this unreliable. How many ships could a king launch? We know Nigel Farage is the face that launched a thousand lunches, so perhaps we should adopt the Farage as a measurement of failure and shallow thinking.
On the rare occasions I turn on the BBC there’s usually some child-man presenter talking to me as if I was an idiot five year-old. Everything has to be spelled out or turned into an awkward analogy. One of the key measurements I remember as a child was the ratio of dinosaurs to double-decker buses. Specifically, a diplodocus was two and a half times the size of a double-decker bus.
No, not one of these all-electric environmentally lovely jobbies. I mean a proper smelly old Routemaster, one of these, the kind the driver puts a seat behind when it breaks down.
Similarly, the unit of the football pitch is often invoked. Flowers outside Princess Diana’s home covered a size equivalent to three football pitches. There was also a fashion for things reaching ‘to the moon and back’ or laid ‘end to end’. One sees why this spelling-out of measurement is necessary when one asks a friend how long a metre is.
Diamonds are invariably ‘as big as a hen’s egg’, just as tumours range in size between duck eggs and tennis balls. Low temperatures are measured with the aid of these.
Other odd measurement systems include jaguars (running as fast as), grains of rice, stars in the sky (often invoked during romantic moments), drops in the ocean and, for cubic capacity, swimming pools. Does it help us to visualise quantities or lengths?
Speaking of diamonds, one of the best pseudo-measurements I’ve come across is from William Dalrymple, who places the value of a particular diamond at ‘two and a half days’ food for the whole world’. Just think of the good the Kardashions could do if they weren’t so busy taking photos of their arses.
Gentlemen go through a phase wherein they are fascinated by the measurement of their trouser contents. During this time pencils, beer bottles, baby’s arms and other people’s trouser contents may be used as comparison tools. This phase usually passes by the age of sixteen, although the more traumatised ones go on to be president.