Project Titles and the Metric System

I love it when people ask me relevant questions
and make comments.

After my post last month, someone wrote to me via the comments section of this blog to ask about my having two different titles for two different parts of my metric-system-awareness work. First, I thank him for taking the time to ask the question. I’m pretty sure other people had the same question. So, let me say this: I LOVE questions (so long as they are civil) because it lets me know what you are thinking.

Allow me to share I answer I gave to him (already in the comments section of the blog) with just a couple of minor tweaks to try to make my writing clearer:

In reply to: “Good work Linda! I look forward to following your progress. I am curious about the book’s main title. Why not use “More Than A Mile Behind” to match the name of this blog and (I assume) the documentary title?”

My answer

Here’s the primary reason: I like the title of the book as a title for a book and I like the title of the documentary as a title for a documentary.

Four years into the project (once I realized that the two different producers weren’t going to “produce,” for lack of better words), I recognized that the best path to gain attention for our metric system plight was within a book. A very time-consuming, but relatively inexpensive path to go down.

So, did I want to carry the documentary title forward as a title for a book or was there a better path?

After many thought exercises, I decided that, while I like the name for the documentary, a book would appeal to a different audience, need to take a more scholarly approach, and face much fiercer competition (There are 600,000 to 1 million books published each year compared with far, far fewer documentaries.) and, therefore, a book needed a stronger, more controversial title.

If I picked a new title for a book version, would the documentary be left behind? Nope. Nothing about writing the book would keep the documentary from being made with or without the same title. If the book is successful, it could carry the title to the documentary like most—if not all— print to “film” projects.

And, unlike the documentary title, while some people countered that the title should be “More Than a METER Behind.” (I rejected that since Americans would immediately assume something with “meter” in the title wasn’t meant for them. So, I stuck with the word “mile.”)

On the other hand, the overwhelming response (maybe 100 percent) to the book’s working title America’s Biggest Miscalculation is along the lines of “Nice,” “Perfect,” and “Great title.”

I think I made the right decision. And this was the short answer!

Request for assistance coming soon

Valued reader: In preparation for some of the content for the book, I’m compiling a list of every possible reason people have given to me (or that I can get my hands on) to reject/not adopt the metric system.

No matter how many different reasons I’ve heard for rejecting the metric system, I’m sure there are more out there.

I ask that you not send me anything just yet, but start to think about some responses you may have mentally collected over the years that you’d like to share.

Allow me to print as complete a list as I can compile (without rebuttal at this point). And then, if you can add to the list with things I’ve missed, please feel free to make your voice heard. Not only is this work important for the book but it could also start to form the basis for a metric system advocates’ handbook. (Let’s face it, you can’t be ready for opposition if you don’t understand the arguments they extend.) And granted, there isn’t much opposition right now, but if we get traction, I can guarantee the naysayers will push back…HARD. History says so.

From the book’s back cover.
Just substitute “U.S. Customary Units” for “the metric system” to help illustrate the pointlessness of this argument.

Other than direct experience from research and face-to-face interactions, right now I’m going back through a book from 1981 (roughly the end of our last metric push in this country. (Recall the 1975 metrication act) called Metric Madness: Over 150 Reasons for NOT Converting to the Metric System by James William Batchelder.

To me, one of the amazing things about this book is the illustration on the back of it. A book’s back cover is “prime real estate” for messaging. You would think the author would make an important and hopefully irrefutable argument against the metric system there. However, instead, it presents what I think is one of the least effective counterarguments: Blame the tools and not the users.

I was speaking to a friend the other day and I mentioned that one of the reasons given to oppose the metric system in this country is that “The metric system units are too small.”

She burst out laughing.

May that attitude spread. You can help. Please contribute your thoughts and observations. Milebehind@gmail.com.

Let’s face it, if most of the rest of the world can get this thing done, we can too.

More soon.

Linda

5 thoughts on “Project Titles and the Metric System

  1. The pints a pound the world around I was told!
    Well actually it isn’t, pretty close with American pints but not with British pints, and of course it depends on what liquid you are measuring. Wet Pint water 473 g, Dry pint, well who knows but generally 551 mL. Imperial pint 568.261 g. A pound is 454 g.

  2. You ROCK, Linda! Thanks for all your efforts. One of the most ludicrous arguments I’ve heard was recently – when someone argued that the metric system causes (I kid you not) “brain atrophy” by making calculations easier and not requiring unwieldy and irrational summing of bizarre fractions. I replied to this individual the best way I could but I was so dumbstruck at his comment initially I thought he was joking. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. I illustrated to him that the very law of nature is to take the path of least resistance be it fire, water, electricity, etc. and if you can show me one person (especially an American) willing to climb a few extra hills and jump through a few more hoops to get to the end product, I might listen. He’s yet to respond to this metric elitist snob lol.

    • No. YOU rock. Just your making the effort to contribute means a lot. As for the “excuse” you’ve come across. Yep. I heard this one a number of years ago in the context of an educator expressing the same idea. Thanks for reminding me of it. Your additional comments bring up an excellent point: the path of least resistance. Off the top of my head, I think people don’t want to change because, for them, the path of least resistance is not doing anything. Let me think about how to leverage your idea. I do like the idea of drawing parallels to the workings of the natural world and the metric system. Great contribution!

  3. Not sure you are giving that cartoon enough credit. It expresses the idea that metric is for impractical idealists, much the same argument as for, say, Esperanto.

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