Tag Archives: american measurement system

NEWSFLASH: ‘American’ is not a measurement system

Many centuries ago, humanity decided it’s probably a good idea to measure things in a consistent and uniform manner. Pretty much the entire world agreed on this, but there were some children in the class who wanted to use a ball of clay instead of a pencil to write their homework. America was one of those dumbass children.

With the creation of the “American system” aka the Imperial system aka the United States customary system, the world was given a brand new way of doing everything wrong. Below is a summary of the system’s greatest features:

  • CONSISTENCY FAIL: The relation between units is completely nonsensical (Why is 12 inches a foot? Why not 13? Why 3 feet in a yard? Who the hell picked these numbers?)
  • MULTIPLICITY FAIL: It’s impossible to denote orders of magnitude increases in the same unit (There is no such thing as a kilofoot)
  • TERMINOLOGY FAIL: The unit names are absurd, and include fan favorites such as:
    • Furlongs
    • Chains
    • Leagues
    • Rods

Rods. Rods. Seriously? I got in touch with the original creator of the American Imperial unit system, and had a conversation with him about what some of these units actually mean:

ME: So…what the hell is a rod?
FOGHORN: A rod is a unit of measure.
ME: How big is a rod?
FOGHORN: A rod is exactly 1 rod in length.
ME: Okay… How long is 1 rod in length?
FOGHORN: Oh. Simple: 25 links.
ME: You mean like sausage links? It’s the length of 25 sausages?
FOGHORN: No, no. Links. The unit of measure.
ME: I’m hungry now. What was I saying?
FOGHORN: A link is a unit of measure.
ME: Oh, right. So how long is a link?
FOGHORN: A link is exactly 33/50 fractions of a foot.
ME: …Why?
FOGHORN: Why not?
ME: You know what I’m going to ask next.
FOGHORN: I assume you want to know the length of a foot.
ME: You’re quite bright for someone who invented something so retarded.
FOGHORN: …Anyway, a foot is the length of a foot. You know what a foot is.
ME: Right, but whose foot?
FOGHORN: A good old fashioned red-blooded American’s foot, of course!
ME: So… you invented a system that uses a human foot, even though you are a giant chicken? Isn’t that depressing?
FOGHORN: Well I wanted to use my own foot but I am about eight times the size of a normal chicken, and I didn’t want people to use normal chicken feet sizes by mistake. So, to avoid confusion, I used human feet.
FOGHORN: By the way, if you’re still hungry, I actually do have some sausage links.
ME: No thanks, I don’t eat pork.
ME: Don’t you feel weird eating a pig, though? I mean, the pig pen is like right next to yours in the farm.
FOGHORN: I am an oversized cartoon chicken, why do you assume anything I do makes sense?
ME: Touchè.

NOTE: Just to be clear, all of the measurements used above are accurate. 1 rod = 25 links = 33/50 foot. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

Seriously though, when I say the US is alone in this, I mean it. The map below indicates which countries don’t use the metric system:


As you can see, the red countries are communists. Need I say more?

…Well I’m going to, anyway. It’s not just about the metric system. Let’s not forget the wonderful Fahrenheit system. The other temperature systems chose their scale based on logical points of significance, like the freezing point of water. Fahrenheit chose a completely arbitrary point in the temperature scale to base the system off of. Want to know how? There were actually three references points which led to his scale. Here’s my favorite:

“The third point, 96 degrees, was the level of the liquid in the thermometer when held in the mouth or under the armpit of his wife.”

Holy shit dude, it’s hot outside. Like really hot. Hell, it’s almost Mrs. Fahrenheit’s armpit degrees outside!

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