Log in

Ten with kitten

shivver13 in dw_britglish

British measurements

Hello again! I have another set of questions, this time about how to refer to sizes, distances, and weights. I know that the metric system is standard in the UK, but I can't convince myself that it's always used in casual conversation. For example, I just read a DW short story that referred to the height of the TARDIS in feet. Here are a few questions I have.

1. Would you say the TARDIS is three metres high, or nine feet high? (Approximately.)
2. What measurement is used for driving distances and velocities?
3. What measurement is used for weights, such as how much a person weighs?



Ahhh...so I find a lot of people these days will use metric and imperial at the same time? Like when calculating someone's BMI at work we will measure their height in feet and their weight in kilograms...so it can be pretty interchangeable! A lot of my cookbooks have metric and imperial side by side.

1. Either. But if in doubt, go with feet!
2. For driving distances it will always be in miles and yards, and all road signs will use these measurements.
3. Most people will use imperial for weights (e.g. stones - for a person. So someone wouldn't weigh xx pounds, they would weight xx stones, but they might say that they had LOST xx pounds.) Buying food in shops is always kilos/grams, but things like cook books and kitchen equipment will usually have dual measurements, and many people are confident with both. Older people tend to use imperial more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_units#United_Kingdom This is pretty accurate!

Edited at 2015-04-22 05:36 pm (UTC)
It amuses me that you refer to your non-metric system as "Imperial", while we in the US refer to our non-metric system as "English" when it's really "US customary units" according to Wikipedia. And then, there's an "English" system which is not the same as either Imperial or US customary units> And THEN, our calling our system "English" makes us think that our system is the same as Imperial... So confusing!

1. Almost everyone from [approx] late 70s onwards would give the height in metric [metres]. Anyone born earlier in the UK may have been brought up with the Imperial system [i.e. me] and think in yards, feet and inches first.

2. Distances on roads = miles and velocities in miles per hour. All the advisory speed signs are in miles per hour.

[https://sp.yimg.com/ib/th?id=JN.053DVKr%2bJnvoL%2bkkFYDF9w&pid=15.1&P=0] = 30 mph.

3. Weights. In shops and supermarkets, things are sold in grammes & kilogrammes [by law]. As for the weight of a person, the answer is similar to 1) above. Stones and pounds for people educated before [approx] late 70s; kilogrammes after that.

For lengths of material, we have a similar situation. Yards in earlier years; metres now.
Oh! See, I wondered about those round signs when I was in England last year. I thought that the road measurements were in km, but 30 kmh (for example) seemed a bit fast for the road we were on. Luckily, we were on a bus, so I wasn't driving and didn't need to care about what it actually meant.
It will depend on age. For example I'm 40, and in the last decade have got used to my height and weight being in metric for the NHS, but otherwise it's a right mixture depending on context and size. Most people would use non-metric for their weight, cook in whatever they grew up with or whatever their recipe book uses, and measure an object in either (I will look at two bits of string and call one eight cm and the other six inches...) Metric is used when being precise though - so for DIY everything is now measured in metric so you work in metric to buy wood and chipboard, but the sizes are generally the same as when measured in imperial. And our scientists all use metric all the time.

I'd probably say 3 metres, but up to height of 6 or 7 feet I'd use feet.
Driving distances is always miles (including on road signs), and mph.
Weight of a person - see above. But unlike the US it's stones and pounds - a stone is 14 lb.
In general, the older someone is the more likely they are to use imperial measurements as that's what they grew up with/were taught in school.

For reference I was taught metric and will generally use that (I'm 23)

But specifically for your questions:

1. Either would work on this. I'd usually go for meters for sizes of things, however I would describe a person's height in feet & inches. So something of a similar (ish) height could be described in the same way.

2. Miles and miles per hour (speed restrictions are in mph)

3. Depends on what you're weighing. I would use kg/grams in general. But for a person's weight I would use stone and pounds (not just pounds)
Yep... it's an age thing...

I would say 9 feet high.

Distances are in miles, and speed is in miles per hour (all road signs showing the speed limit are in mph too).

Weight of a person I would say stones (1 stone = 14 pounds) and pounds (written "lbs") - you might go down to ounces too (16 ounces = 1 pound).

Edited at 2015-04-22 05:56 pm (UTC)
1 lb = 16oz, 1 st = 14 lb. :)
(Born 1972)
* I would say "it is about nine foot" or "it's nine feet high" - the distinction between foot and feet is difficult to explain and I'm not entirely sure I know why I make it! We talk of "six-footers" (6' tall) and "a 10 foot drop", but "it's twenty feet away".
* Miles.
* Stones/pounds or kilograms, depending on context. With my GP it's kg, at home it's st/lb. I can convert the two reasonably well, though when my son was born and they told me he was some 4-figure number of grams I had to get them to tell me lb/oz for me to have any grasp of his actual size. (7lb11oz for the record!)

HOWEVER. For all some people claim (correctly for them, I'm sure) that post-70s births are more likely to use metric, I just asked my 11yo son, who said without hesitation that he is 5ft1. He didn't know how much he weighed but guessed in stone rather than kg. My younger cousins and SILs use imperial for height and weight too. I don't actually know anyone who uses metric for their height apart from my ex who is conveniently exactly 2 metres tall. If he weren't I suspect he wouldn't use it either.

We have a weird sort of mashup going with the EU regulations: we label everything in metric first and foremost, and then we buy a pint - sorry, 568ml - of milk anyway. I made biscuits earlier using grams for measurement, and then a cake using oz. This is entirely down to the way those particular recipes were passed down to me, and I don't have any particular internal dilemma about it.
All of which is to say: nah, it's not often used in casual conversation but it's not really wrong if it is, because of the way we mix and match. Just don't have anyone in your story going to buy 484g of crisps or 284ml of beer. :)
It would be 9 feet because feet is the plural of foot - at least that's always been my take on it.
It depends a lot on the age of the speaker, younger people use the metric system more. For me personally (I'm 24):

1. I use both imperial (feet, inches) and metric (metres, centimetres) when talking about the height of things. With regard to the TARDIS specifically, I don't know which I'd say spontaneously, it would probably depend on who I'm talking to - if I was talking to a child I would say "it's 3 metres high", if I was talking to my grandmother I'd definitely say "it's 10 foot high", and for people whose age is in between I might go either way (but would offer the alternative if they looked confused). The exception is the height of a people, which I always say in feet and inches, so if I was thinking of the TARDIS as more sentient then I'd say "10 foot".
2. The UK still uses imperial measurements for roads, speeds, distances etc. So miles and mph are standard, and used by pretty much everybody. (If the distance is less than a full mile though, some people will use metres, e.g. directions could be "you drive 3 miles down the road, take the first left, then continue on for about 400 metres", but yards (or fractions of a mile) is still the more common measurement for that.)
3. I would measure a person's weight in stone and pounds (and ounces, if it's a baby). But literally anything else - food, suitcases, whatever - I would use kilogrammes and grammes.

It's all a bit of a jumble. When I was at school (10ish years ago), we were taught metric measurements first, but a lot of time in maths lessons was spent on learning the conversions to/from the old measurements, and while things officially might have changed that often just means you buy milk in 568 millilitre cartons and jam in 454 gramme jars... We're all still a bit mid-transition to the metric system. But in my experience, most people understand the other system reasonably well, even if it's not their preferred one.
"1. Would you say the TARDIS is three metres high, or nine feet high? (Approximately.)"

I think this depends on how old you are. Nowadays only the metric system is taught in schools, I believe. Being 66, I'd say nine feet, but I suspect that most people under thirty or so would say three metres.

"2. What measurement is used for driving distances and velocities?"

Read signs are still in miles, an exception to the general adoption of metric measurements. Thus speeds are commonly quoted in mph.

"3. What measurement is used for weights, such as how much a person weighs?"

Goods in shops are sold in kilograms, but a person's weight is still often given in stones and pounds (one stone being 14 pounds).
Like they said, it's stones and pounds BUT note the usage carefully.
I weigh more than I should - in fact around sixteen stone eight pounds.
Or sixteen stone eight.
Note that although I'm weighing myself in stones, the word in the actual measurement is singular.
It's interesting that "stone" is singular but "pounds" is plural. I wonder how that came about?
People are usually weighed in stone and pounds. eg. She is 9st 5lb. Just lb would tend to indicated an American. Kg would be unusual, but in my experience less unusual than lb by themselves. Kg are more likely to be used for something other than people - eg. my brother will give me his weight in stones and pounds, but the dog's weight in kg.
9ft 9 or 3 m for the tardis, either would be acceptable and not raise eyebrows. If the viewpoint character was born before 1964 or so, I would be a bit surprised at them using metres but not enough to think "that's wrong."

UK born and brought up. Regularly deal with age range 11 to very old
Driving distances and velocities, miles and miles per hour.
I know that the metric system is standard in the UK

Er, for some things, for some people, in some circumstances. For some unspecified value of “standard”.

As everyone else has said, it depends on people's age and the circumstances. I've just asked my 18-year-old for his height and weight (I didn't say why) and he doesn't know how tall he is (even though he wrote it in metres on his passport application three weeks ago), but he gave me his weight in Kg. He says he and his friends find it natural to talk about inches rather than cm for small distances, and miles for longer journeys.

When my children were born, I was told their weight in kg and their length in cm, but I immediately said "What's that in English?" and they told me. I can't remember the lengths, but birth weight in lb oz is always part of labour stories so you tend to remember it forever lol.

When I was about five years old I remember a friend telling me that soon we would have to start weighing things in kilogrammes not pounds; well, that was in 1962 and I haven't started yet. I learnt to cook in the 1970s so I know what an ounce of flour looks like on a tablespoon, and an ounce of sugar, and although we now buy butter in metric, I only need to know that a packet of butter is as near as dammit nine ounces (I don't use scales).

It's just occurred to me I actually don't know what a packet of butter weighs. Years ago I calculated that the new metric packets were 8.81oz, and that’s the number I remember. I would have to sit down with a calculator to work out what 8.81 oz is in metric. Google tells me it's 0.249759 kg, which is just under 0.25 kg which is obviously a quarter of a kilo so that therefore must be 250g. And yes, that literally is the thought process I have to go through to work it out. (A-Level Applied Maths was a nightmare - everything was in metric and it made it very difficult to gauge whether you’d got a sensible answer or whether you were out by a factor of 1,000 or something.)

I'm sure in the past I have been told what my height is in centimetres or maybe metres, but I don't remember it because I simply don't care. When people ask my height I tell them 5'4" and if that's not good enough for them it's their problem as far as I'm concerned - they can work it out for themselves.

[1] I’d say the Tardis is about nine foot tall (possibly nine feet tall is more correct, but we’re talking about what people actually say).

[2] As far as I know, distances on road signs are still always given in miles, and speeds (and speed limits) definitely are. This probably reinforces the use of miles amongst younger people who perhaps would otherwise use km.

[3] I’ve mentioned above.

Where I think most people have switched over to metric (I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong!) is for temperatures and buying petrol/diesel. In the 1970s everyone still used Fahrenheit; I’m not sure when we changed to Centigrade and then suddenly it changed again without explanation to Celsius. But now most people know that 3° is pretty cold and 30° is not something you want to stand about in for very long in the sunshine. We still buy pints of milk and of beer by the glass, but we’re used to buying litres of orange juice and diesel. I know as an academic fact that a pint of milk is 568 something or others, but if you asked me to measure out, say, 100 ml, I wouldn’t know whether to get a teaspoon or a pint jug without doing some calculations first. I always think a milli-litre must be tiny, a fraction of a drop, because my assumption on first hearing the term (at about age 17) was that a milli-litre must be a cubic millimetre, and I’ve never quite grown out of that one.

Sorry, this is a bit rambly, but I hope it helps to give a bit of depth and context.
Let's put it this way: a teaspoon is 5 milliliters (pharmaceutical background). I hope you can take it from there!

I've addressed the temperature thing in another post here.

1 cup =237 ml, so 2 cups (1 pint) = 474 ml, was that what you're referring to?

So, 100 ml is less than 1 cup (less than 1/2 cup to be more precise). A teaspoon wouldn't do it (unless you want to measure 20 of them out!)

I could play with numbers all day...
What about temperature? Just curious.

I'm in the US, but heavily into science, so I measure liquids in milliliters or liters, and temperature as Celsius. Our fridge, in particular, has the choice. I set it to Celsius, as I know that -20 is proper freezer temperature, and 4-6 is proper refrigeration temperature. I have no idea about it in Fahrenheit! Oh, and 37 is proper (thereabouts) body temperature.

Must be confusing to use both metric and imperial... and what is it with stones for weight? Where did that one come from?
I use imperial for real life and metric for maths!!

We still use all sorts of odd units - I just got an allotment and its measured in roods...

'Rood is an English unit of area, equal to one quarter of an acre... A rectangular area with edges of one furlong (i.e. 10 chains, or 40 rods) and one rod respectively is one rood, as is an area consisting of 40 perches (square rods). '
1. I'd say it was taller than a tall person or "As tall as a single-deck bus" or something. Seriously, I'm bad at guessing ;-p People generally use either (older people more likely to go for feet) or random comparisons to buses or other common things

2. Miles and miles/hour. Almost always. The specified speed limits are in miles/hour usually written mph, speedometers (on UK cars; and residents don't usually have foreign cars because the steering wheel is on the wrong side) usually have mph in big numbers and kph in small ones (or even not at all).

3. Stones-and-pounds or kilograms NEVER NEVER NEVER just pounds like Americans do. So I'm 9 stone 11 or 62 kg. One stone is 14 lbs
Randomly - I sew and knit in inches, weigh food in grams, and do temperature in Celsius or "gas mark" (we have a gas oven), know my height in feet-and-inches and keep my me-scales in stones-and-pounds, do cars speed in mph but me-speed (running or cycling) in kph; most British people switch randomly between different units, although the younger a person is the more likely they are to be entirely metric (apart from car-speed).

The law now mostly requires things to be sold in metric; although sometimes that means your pint of milk has 568ml written on the carton... beer, cider, and similar drinks are still sold in actual pints in pubs unless bottled (in which case the bottle will have the volume in ml on it).
Shivver, see what you started here?
I know! I have 45+ messages in my inbox from this thread, and I have no idea how to respond to all of them! :D
From what I understand, miles and miles per hour.
3 What measurement is used for weights such as how much a person weighs?
The British (and Australians, I believe) use stones and pounds. 1 stone is 14 pounds, so a person who weighs 147 pounds in American parlance (or 66.7 kg) would be said to weigh "10 stone 7" in Britain.