When I first learned about the historic multiple failures of U.S. metric adoption, I believed only Americans would care about the story. I came to realize that nothing is further from the truth. I suspect that some of that external interest comes from the same reason that people slow down when they pass a car accident: morbid curiosity.
I don’t say that to be mean but I think it’s a human trait that when you see something that you really can’t explain and seems really peculiar you start to wonder what’s going on. That’s pretty much us with regard to metric adoption. People in other countries who realize how far behind we are here must be scratching their heads as to why we still can’t get our act together and go metric like almost every other country has.
The U.K. Connection
One of my early clues that this story was of international interest was when I started my Twitter account and folks from the U.K. and Canada started following me. As I started to think about it, that kind of made sense. After all, the U.S. and U.K have ties that date back more than 200 years. But, it turns out, not only are folks in the U.K. interested in this topic but top visitors to this blog are all former British colonies. That fact becomes visually striking when you look below and notice that in the case of New Zealand and Australia the U.K. flag is still embedded in their current “colors.” That’s less true of Canada, but then their currency is emblazoned with Her Majesty the Queen, so that takes any ambiguity out of the equation.
I tend to think of U.K. and these other top followers as our brothers and sisters because of these joint ties.
I’m also not the only American to notice that we tend to demonstrate our affinity to our U.K. roots in odd ways. Take, for instance, a New York Times article from late last year that mused over our bemusing tendency to incorporate Britishisms into our American speech. Titled “Americans Are Barmy Over Britishisms” it says, in part:
Crikey, Britishisms are everywhere. Call it Anglocreep. Call it annoying. Snippets of British vernacular — “cheers” as a thank you, “brilliant” as an affirmative, “loo” as a bathroom — that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily speech of Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for “Downton Abbey.
Some of this carryover must work both ways since our sibling countries are apparently wondering what the heck we are doing that we’re still behind the curve when it comes to metric adoption. Are the folks in Canada and New Zealand thinking something akin to “If we figured out how to grow up decades ago, what’s going on in the U.S.?”
The French Connection
Interestingly, while I was looking over my statistics for this blog on Friday I saw an unusual number of hits had come from France. A little investigation revealed that a woman writing on American topics, including this week our measurement system, had this to say about this project (translated from French):
If you are passionate about the subject, go to this American blog, A mile behind, denouncing the non-use of the metric system in the United States from all angles (the States are one of the only three countries in the world – with Burma and Liberia to not have standardized the metric system).
As this project progresses I’ll have more of a chance to talk to people around the globe. Then I’ll get a much better feel for this interest and not only how we are perceived by those countries to which we have these extended ties but others around the rest of the world.
Want to join my mailing list?
I’m now starting a mailing list so if you would like to be added to learn more about this project outside of this blog, please feel free to send me your email address. I promise that I won’t sell or lend it. If you want to learn more about this project, that’s the least I can do.
Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the distribution.
I also welcome any thoughts or comments you might want to share in the email. I’ll assume that if you wanted them to be public, you’d comment on this post. Therefore, if I decide to share any of your thoughts in any way, I’ll do so in a way that keeps you anonymous. So, if you don’t want me to share at all, probably best not to send comments to me.
Thanks for your interest and I’ll keep moving this project forward.