When I was in grade school, they tried to teach us all about the metric system under the now laughable guise that the U.S. was going to convert over any minute now.
I learned even more about it in college, and the metric system is great, provided you are using it to solve metric system math problems. That’s because everything is a multiple of ten. Easy peasy.
The metric system is not so great when you are trying to give someone directions, however. People look at you funny when you say, “It’s just about a 1.6 kilometer down the road.”
And it doesn’t work for weights, either, as illustrated in this actual conversation at a meat counter:
“May I have 907 grams of lean pastrami, please?”
“Get out of my deli.”
A thousand grams is a kilogram, or a “kilo,” but only drug dealers know what a kilo is, and they’re bad people who should be in jail.
The military uses the metric system, but only because the enemy doesn’t understand it, so no one can listen in on a radio conversation and gain any intel.
Army guy on radio - We’re moving in on the Tangos. Six clicks to the west.
Army base – Roger
Enemy 1 – Where are they going? What is a Tango? What is a click?
Enemy 2 – A Tango is us. A click is one kilometer.
Enemy 1 – Why are we Tangos?
Enemy 2 – I have no idea.
Enemy 1 – What is a kilometer?
Enemy 2 – I have no idea. But don’t worry. Those guys are 3.728 miles east of us. They’ll never find us here.
Enemy 1 – Oh, good. I was getting wor…
Army guy on radio – Tangos down.
The only real civilian use for the metric system is fun runs. Everyone is familiar with the 5K, but that’s where it ends. The non-fun runs are either named or listed in their mile length. People run marathons, not 42.16K’s.
“Hey, I heard you ran a half marathon last weekend.”
“Yes, I ran the 21.08K on Saturday.”
“I’ve never liked you.”
Our government – possibly a branch of the military trying to keep us from knowing how much we were drinking, for some reason – decided to sneak in the metric system on our wine and liquor bottles a long time ago.
Your standard wine bottle and the most common liquor bottles are 750ml. ML is the abbreviation for milliliter, or in layman’s terms, one millionth of a liter. (In alcohol slang, milliliter is often shortened to “mil,” which lends credence to the theory that the military was behind this.)
But do you know what we call a 750ml bottle of booze? A fifth.
A fifth of what, you might ask?
A fifth of a gallon, that’s what. But when you do the complicated booze math (which becomes much more complicated with much more booze), you find out that a fifth of a gallon is really equal to 757ml.
That’s right! The government stole 7ml of your Jim Beam. Remember that next time you vote!
For all their immense and far-reaching flaws, at least the government knew better than to mess with the beer bottles. That’s probably because beer has a long tradition of awesome measurements that they didn’t want to mess with. Or, they knew that beer drinkers are much more apt to riot than wine and spirt lovers. Could go either way.
The ultimate beer keg is called a Tun. It holds 252 gallons, or the equivalent of one night’s worth at Ted Kennedy’s house.
The next size down is a Butt, which is half a Tun. *Please insert hilarious joke about your ex here*
A half a Butt is usually known as a cheek, but in the case of beer casks, it’s known as a Hogshead. This is obviously one of the coolest units of measure, and consists of 63 gallons of foamy goodness.
A Barrel is half a hogshead, and a Firkin is a fourth of a barrel. Now here’s where the beer math starts to get spooky.
You see, in the non-metric system of measurements, there are 12 inches in a foot, and 5,280 feet in a mile, which is 1,760 yards. A yard is also a container you can drink beer out of, if you love to look like an idiot and slosh warm beer all over your shirt. None of those things have to do with this, though, so ignore all that.
Ounces are both a measure of weight and volume in our amazing system. There are 16 ounces in a pound, and a firkin of beer weighs 63 pounds, which is the exact number of gallons in a hogshead! You might think that’s a coincidence, but that just proves you don’t understand the true genius of this system and how it relates to beer.
You see, there are 16 weight ounces in a pound, and there are also 16 fluid ounces in a pint. Beer weighs 8 pounds per gallon, and there are also 8 pints in a gallon!
Do you understand now? What that means is that a pint of beer weighs exactly one pound. A pound!
This is why the metric system is useless. No one would ever say, “Let’s 0.45 kilogram these beers and get outta here.”
Come to think of it, that’s probably where “pounding headache” came from, too.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen
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