Why Bother with Metric?

The simple fact is that it’s all around us. Even here in the U.S., where most everyone uses the old “English” system of measurement for everyday life, metric units still abound. Soda pop has been sold in two-liter bottles for decades; wine, liquor and spirits are sold by milliliters rather than fifths of a gallon. Cigarette lengths have been in millimeters for as long as I can remember. Pills, once weighed in grains, have been measured in milligrams now for many years. And have you ever seen a nutrition label on a food item that listed protein, carbohydrate or fat in ounces or grains? Of course not; everything is in grams.

The metric system, properly known as the International System of Units (Système International d’Unités or SI) is the primary system of measurement in nearly every nation on the planet, including (ironically) Great Britain, from where our “English” measurement system came in the first place. The U.S. is the only developed country where the old measurements prevail, and then only among the general public. Industry and technology, including car manufacturers, all use the metric system today.

The present problem in the U.S. is that both systems are being used concurrently, creating confusion for everyone. At this point, switching totally to metric would be an improvement. Already, metric units are used so commonly, even in the U.S., that we all need to become more familiar with them.