‘It makes no sense’: reaction to plan to revive imperial measurements in UK | Brexit

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Matt Tandy is feeling the pressure. He may be the manager of a fabric and craft shop, but he’s also only 26 years old. As such, being asked whether he thinks three yards is longer or shorter than 2.5 meters is causing him undue stress.

“This is the one I need to get right, don’t I?” he says before sighing with relief when his answer from him – three yards is in fact longer – is correct. Nearby, a shopper more advanced in years smirks at Tandy’s hesitancy from her.

His anxiety may soon be mirrored by much of the nation, with Boris Johnson reported to be planning to revive the use of imperial measurements. The UK currently uses a mix of imperial and metric measurements – think miles per hour but liters of petrol – but the former is fast becoming a memory for younger Britons.

Tandy, the manager of Abakhan in Shrewsbury town centre, is nonplussed by the idea of ​​going back to imperial. Considering he is too young to remember quarters of sweets or fruit by the pound though, he does very well in the Guardian’s imperial v metric quiz, only failing to guess that a pint of lager is more than 550ml.

Chris Carter, 45 is enjoying a pint of lager in the sunshine nearby. Despite his choice of drink, he wrongly thinks a pint is 545ml when in fact it is 568ml in the UK. He fares better, however, on the questions about distance and height.

The idea of ​​a reintroduction is “nonsense”, he says. “Why change something that works? It makes no sense. You’re going to have all the school kids that have learned the metric system who then have to switch over to old imperial measurements.”

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Carter, who voted Conservative in the last election, thinks there is one reason and one reason only that Johnson is bringing the change in: “He’s taking a stab in the dark to try to cover up all his misdeeds. And I say this as someone who voted for him.”

On the High Street, Cheryl and Nigel Ormerod, both 70, are visiting Shrewsbury from Wolverhampton and are laden with shopping bags. Instead of guessing, like many of the others asked, the couple take the time to do the maths in their heads. They get them all right. Their only wobble is whether a quarter of sweets is more than 100 grams, but that’s only because they mishear the latter. Cheryl says: “Hang on, you said 100 grams so it’s the quarter that’s more.” She is correct, a quarter of a pound is 113 grams.

“In one way I would like it to come back, probably because of the nostalgia, but I’m happy to stay with what we have got, especially as Europe uses metric. I know we are out of the EU but hardly any other countries use imperial now,” Nigel says.

Chris Carter enjoys his pint
Chris Carter enjoys 568ml of lager. Photograph: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian

His wife agrees. “We were talking to our grandsons about feet and inches and they looked totally blank at us so you would have to educate an awful lot of people,” she says. “There’s probably less of us around that do remember.”

Goods sold in Europe have had to display metric weights and measurements since 1995, and the EU’s weights and measures directive of 2000 makes it a legal requirement to use metric units when selling fresh produce.

In the town square, Melody Lewis, 21, and Cain Frost, 23, confess to having absolutely no idea about either metric or imperial systems. Taking wild guesses, they get most of them wrong until asked whether 10 miles or 15 kilometers is further, which Frost decisively and correctly says is 10 miles. Lewis is right when she says that Siri, who is 180cm, is taller than Alexa, who is 5ft 6in.

Rhys Whitehouse, who is walking past the square with his parents, also gets most of them wrong apart from when asked which baby is heavier: Dave at 4kg or Ian at 8lb 4oz. “I was just going on bags of sugar to work that out,” he says. He is also proud to get the question about the pint of lager right.

Whitehouse, who is 30 next month, says changing it back to imperial is “pointless” and only things like recipes will be affected.

“I’m a barber and most people use inches anyway even though they should be using metric so they ask for an inch off, they don’t ask to have centimetres taken off. And if working in a barbers has taught me one thing, it’s that guys don’t know how big an inch is.”

The Guardian’s imperial v metric quiz

Which is heavier, a quarter of sweets or 100g? Quarter (113g)

Which is more, a pint of lager or 555ml? Pint (568ml)

Which baby is heavier? Ian weighs 8lbs 4oz and Dave weighs 4kg (Dave at 8lbs 13oz)

Which is more fabric? Three yards or 2.5 meters? Three yards (2.74m)

What’s further? At 15k run or 10 miles? (10 miles, 16.09km)

Who’s workshop? Alexa (5ft6in) or Siri (180cm) (Siri at 5ft 9in)

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www.theguardian.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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