I suspect if ever there is a survey done about the most unsuccessful measure ever undertaken in Canada it would likely be the conversion to metric measurement in the 1970s.
Hands up if you still measure your height in feet and inches. I rest my case.
Iím betting that even many youngsters who now size everything in metric donít speak of themselves as being millimetres or metres tall. In my case, having endured short jokes for a lifetime, thereís no way Iím converting my splendid five feet into 1.5 metres. I can just imagine the thigh-slapping humour that would induce. And while I can see the definite advantage in declaring oneís weight in kilograms, at 2.2 pounds per kilo a definite esteem-inducing idea, I still canít begin to imagine the size of a baby measured in grams. Giving birth to a seven-pound child is challenge enough without translating that feat into thousands of grams.
Considering itís been 40 years since the Trudeau government in one of its make-work programs decided to foist the metric system on unappreciative Canadians, I suggest the idea just hasnít measured up.
We still weigh our produce in pounds and ounces alongside the token kilo measurers in grocery stores across the nation. We still furtively calculate miles per gallon for our vehicles. And we still moan about how few calories most of us should be consuming per day. (Do you even know what a kilojoule is?)
And lest any of you doubt what I say, check any printed recipe. Almost without fail it will have measurements in both imperial and metric. Quick, ask any self-respecting cook what 454 grams looks like and youíll get a stare that will leave you feeling 2.5 centimetres tall.
The biggest indication of the generation gap in this country is not the music we listen to, the clothes we wear or our dexterity with computers but whether or not we think in the almighty metric.
Now some of you may be wondering just what has triggered this rant against how we measure up in our country. Hereís the short answer ó†blame it on CP (thatís Canadian Press) Style. That guideline represented by a small, worn-out, over-used bible sitting on my desk expounds what our newspaper should and should not expose to the tender eyes of our readers. CP Style dictates spelling, mostly English as in jolly old England, hence the o-u-r in many words that the spell checker tries valiantly to change. The Style guides usage, which is why the archaic Mr. Sam Brown becomes Sam Brown on first mention and Brown thereafter, the idea being that all people over the age of 18 are peers and none need titles before their name except medical doctors, politicians and military (including police and firefighters) people, first reference only. Women arenít Ms., Mrs. or Miss, theyíre just plain Sue Jones and Jones thereafter ó the epitome of equality with the above-noted exceptions. And the biggest rule of all ó thou shalt write all measurements in metric.
All of those Style rules are easy to follow, except the annoying metric one. Without fail every single week an imperial measurement appears either in a direct quote or background material and needs to be converted to metric. And why is that? Because we have not accepted metric fully and I suspect we never will.
I recently searched the Internet to find out if a survey had ever been done on the general acceptance of the use of metric measurement in Canada. No such survey exists, but the third item answering my query was a plug for Viagra. Now thatís a measurement not even CP Style covers.