FAQ’d by Shaq: The Metric System

FAQ’d by Shaq #9. The Nicessist’s resident expert Shaq MacNeil answers the most frequently asked questions about the tool of the Devil: The Metric System. 

the metric system

Shaq, what is the metric the system?

Great question.

The metric system is an internationally agreed decimal system of measurement based on logic rather than whatever the monarch at the time decided it was.

Shaq, who invented the metric system?

Great question.

An English bishop, John Wilkins (1614-1672) is often credited with the invention of the system part of the decimal metric system when he published a book with a plan for a ‘universal measure‘ in 1668.

The first practical realization of the metric system came in 1799, during the French Revolution, when the existing system of measure, which had fallen into disrepute, was temporarily replaced by a decimal system based on the kilogram and the metre.

Shaq, who uses the metric system?

Great question.

Literally everyone except the United States, Liberia and Myanmar.

Myanmar was supposed to adopt the metric system in 2011, but something went awry as the bureaucratic matters are wont to do. Liberia maintains the imperial system simply because it was an American colony. The borders were drawn by Americans, the constitution was modelled after the American constitution and the capital city, Monrovia, is literally named after president James Monroe. 

Shaq, why won’t the United States adopt the metric system?

Great question.

The simple answer is that the overwhelming majority of Americans have never wanted to. The gains have always seemed too little, and the goal too purist.

However, the metric system exists behind closed doors even though most people will try and tell you that the movement died in the 1970s. American manufacturers have put out all-metric cars, and the wine and spirits industry abandoned fifths for 75-milliliter bottles and American runners have been known to say “5K” with a wink.

American resistance to the metric system dates back to when first secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson was charged with deciding which set of measures would be best for the country. He had been instrumental in creating the dollar—the first fully decimal measure any nation ever used. Jefferson rejected the metric system, however, because he found it to be too French (which is strange because he was the new nation’s foremost Francophile). He felt that the meter was conceived as a portion of a survey of France, which could only be measured in French territory.

In Jefferson’s defence, the metric system fell out of favour in 18th century Europe and would not rebound until the 1830s. But even the world’s most anti-metric nation—Great Britain—grudgingly began to ditch its Imperial system (a symbol of the British Empire’s dominance) in the 1970s because it was the only way to gain access to the markets of continental Europe. Most of the rest of the world adopted the measures in order not to fall behind in the global economy.

I guess the reason America refuses to go metric is as simple as: “Fuck you, global uniformity. We’re the United States of America and we do whatever the hell we like. Including holding on to our former oppressor’s wacky unit of measurement.”

Shaq, how can I learn to stop worrying and learn to love the metric system?

Great question.

Your best bet to loving the metric system would probably be to be born in any country other than the United States, Liberia and Myanmar, get raised on the metric system and then move to one of these three nations. The anachronistic, quasi-barbaric units of measurement will be so illogical to you that you’ll realize you took the decimal based system for granted and long for its universal adoption.

So Shaq, what now?

Great question.

If you have a topic that you need FAQ’d by Shaq, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Send your topics for FAQing to @TheNicessist or @ShaqMucReal on Twitter.


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