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Miles & kilometres: why do so many people still reference miles?

  • 30-09-2014 12:00pm
    #1
    Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 14,649 Mod ✭✭✭✭


    (maybe this belongs in After Hours? Apologies if it does..)

    I don't know why, but it bugs me a little when people still reference distances in Ireland in miles as opposed to kilometres.

    I don't really (that much) mind your every day John or Joe quoting miles, but when I see officials/politicians/"important people" etc.. on the news/TV saying something is/was 5 miles down the road, or 20 miles from wherever.. it annoys me a little.

    I started driving in 1998 when we were still using miles, but have had no issue whatsoever changing to km's now when referencing distance/speeds etc...
    I'm no maths buff, but I can easily convert any distance/speed from miles to km's (almost without thinking about it now at this stage)

    (I have driven about 200,000/300,000 km's in mainland Europe over the last 10 years or so, so maybe I've slightly adapted to using km's a little more than would be expected here in Ireland since we changed over).

    Does this bother anyone else?

    or am I just mental?


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,476 ✭✭✭ardmacha


    Many people in Ireland are west Brits. You only have to see the continual reference to stones even in publicly financed ads by Safe Food and the like.


  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 14,649 Mod ✭✭✭✭AndyBoBandy


    ardmacha wrote: »
    Many people in Ireland are west Brits. You only have to see the continual reference to stones even in publicly financed ads by Safe Food and the like.

    true, I'd actually be guilty of that myself if I'm being honest!

    I still reference my weight in stones!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,088 ✭✭✭SpaceTime


    Hundreds of years of using miles,proximity culturally to the UK and US media which uses miles and RTE and other media outlets not coming up with a snappier name.

    Kilo-metres (odd way of saying it) an hour instead of just 'kays' like the Australians say.

    A long combersome phrase won't catch on where it's replacing a monosyllabic word.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,088 ✭✭✭SpaceTime


    What I don't understand is why we didn't embrace the metric system in 1920s.
    It was obviously a 'symbol of imperialism'

    Just found it odd that the nuns and priests of the education system continued to just translate it into Irish and bash totally illogical, complicated, non-metric tables into people for decades.

    I think the metric system definitely benefits people a lot because it makes calculations easier and maths more logical.

    There's something almost antiscientific about the old system.

    Until we start actually making the metric system part of culture, I don't think it's going to change though.
    Things like measuring weights in stone instead of kg doesn't make an awful lot of sense in reality.

    The one I find absolutely nuts is people asking for amounts of things in pounds at counters that can only weigh in kg.

    I mean, how hard is it to get used to? 1 kg is the weight of a litre of milk. You should have a feel for it by now!


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,969 ✭✭✭hardCopy


    I did my driving test in 2005 so pretty much always thought of road distances in KM.

    I'm 30 now and don't think we ever did much imperial school.

    I have no real concept of miles but I could look up the road and tell how many metres away the next lamppost/junction is.

    Our politicians and newsreaders are of older generation, I'd guess metric will begin to dominate over time.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 9,088 ✭✭✭SpaceTime


    You'd be surprised though at how many people talk about 'miles' even without any notion what one actually is!
    They're still extensively used colloquially by younger people.

    I think it'll change as people start reading more online maps and stuff like that as you get used to "in 200 meters .. turn left"

    I got totally confused when my satnav suddenly decided to start using Yards in the UK and I actually have to put a post-it note on the dash board if I'm in an Irish car in the UK to remind me what speed I'm supposed to be at.

    I do think though we need to take our lead from the Aussis and start calling them "k's" rather than "kilo-metres" or whatever it is RTE calls them.

    John lives 30k's away.
    I was doing 79k's when the cops pulled me over...

    and so on.

    I mean we run a "10 K race" not a "10 kilometre race" so why do we insist on saying the full word on RTE etc?

    Seems like one of those weird "official Ireland" things like the strict refusal to use a plural for the Euro currency. There's no rule about that other than one that a few people here made up.

    RTE News tends to deliberately use official pronunciations of places too instead of what they're know by:
    Portlaoise "Port Laois" and Dun Laoghaire (Locally known as "Done Leary")


  • Registered Users Posts: 837 ✭✭✭Subpopulus


    It's a generation thing really. Older people think in terms of pounds of meat and ounces of butter because that's what they were brought up with. I reckon the vast majority of people under the age of 30 don't use pints or pounds or ounces. I for one have little sense of what a pound of something is.

    I'm only in my mid twenties but as a child my weight was always measured in stone and road signs still had miles on them, so I have a good idea of what these measurements mean, though I pretty much never use them these days.

    I was chatting to a farmer in his sixties recently and I mentioned some staggering fact in terms of metres - all i got was a blank stare. I quickly converted it into feet and he immediately grasped it. He basically had no conception of metres in his head. Something I find really annoying is reading the likes of the National Geographic, which doesn't produce an english language version with metric measurements, so most of the measurements are essentially gibberish to me.

    Imperial measurements will die out eventually, except in the most colloquial terms, like saying a gap was an inch wide, rather than saying that it was 3cm. Imperial is handy when you're talking, since you can be quite vague - saying saying something is miles away has a nicer ring than saying something is kilometres away.

    It's more annoying in Britain, which is kinda stuck between both systems. I was watching the Tour de France recently and the commentator converted almost every measurement in metric to imperial as he spoke for the benefit of his audience. It's also a frustration when you travel to the North and all the road signs change to imperial and speeds and distances don't make as much sense in your head anymore.


  • Registered Users Posts: 142 ✭✭Mrs Dempsey


    ....Does this bother anyone else?

    or am I just mental?

    It makes me so mad that I drop my pint :-)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 ✭✭✭Iwannahurl


    I still reference my weight in stones!


    Why?

    If you can answer that question then you know why other people still talk about miles, feet, inches and other outmoded measures.

    Ireland has -- surprise surprise -- made a mess of adopting the metric system. Stupid quantities such as our 454 gramme packs of butter ensure that we hang on to our Imperial relics.

    My kids go to a school where the principal, and some of the teachers, are barely able to comprehend metric units, and I regularly hear 7-year-olds talking about their weight in "stone". Utterly daft.
    The superiority of the decimal system is incontestable from the point of view of arithmetical simplicity. For this reason alone I think the motion should commend itself to the Seanad. It is a very important fact that by adopting the metric system we would save at least, I think, two years' training of the children in school. One of the great drawbacks of the English system is the lack of any connection between one set of tables and another. They are mostly of a lengthy and complicated character, and involve an incalculable waste of time in learning during school years, and are mostly forgotten shortly afterwards. [...] The British system has really nothing to recommend it except the fact that it exists. It is hopelessly out of date.

    ~Senator J. T. O'Farrell, 1923. http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/S/0001/S.0001.192305090007.html


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 ✭✭✭Iwannahurl


    SpaceTime wrote: »
    Kilo-metres (odd way of saying it) an hour instead of just 'kays' like the Australians say.

    A long combersome phrase won't catch on where it's replacing a monosyllabic word.

    What matters is the numbers. Why retain, and continue to popularise, a cumbersome system of units?

    "Kilo-metres" is correct, because kilo- is the prefix denoting one thousand. KilOMetres is the oddity, and is probably derived from words such as "speedometer" which are unrelated.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 9,606 ✭✭✭gctest50


    Ft6qQE7.jpg

    yip


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,205 ✭✭✭✭hmmm


    Does this bother anyone else?

    or am I just mental?
    It's just a generational thing. We grew up speaking about "miles, pence and pound", and even for me today they would be my instinctive words - it takes a mental switch to say kms, cents & euros. Human brains are complicated things and it's hard to break a pattern


  • Registered Users Posts: 221 ✭✭KrustyBurger


    I'm old school as well as I grew up with miles, stones, lbs and quids. Still use them. No intention of not using them. It's just how I think about distance etc.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,119 ✭✭✭Mongarra


    Even one of the candidates in the by-election debate last night was talking about pounds - as in currency, not weight.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,201 ✭✭✭ongarboy


    I think OP would find that probably most people under 30 use kms and most over use miles. It's a generational thing whereby people still use the terminology they grew up with. You shouldn't let it bother you. With each passing decade you'll find more and more generations that only know kms or the metric system. I'm late 30s and automatically think in miles, inches and feet even though I grew up in that transition generation where we were also thought metric system at school. If people think instinctively in miles, you can harldy expect them to multiply by 1.6 before the word comes out of their mouth.

    Depending on which city they come from, some people still refer to Brown Thomas as Switzers, Cash's, Moons or Todds! (maybe you'd need to be over 40 to get that one!!):)


  • Registered Users Posts: 657 ✭✭✭Benster


    I don't think it's generational at all, sure it's not even a decade since the switch was made to road signage from imperial to metric. It's going to take a generation for people to stop using the imperial references and until then allowance will just have to be made for those of us who were educated with and used the imperial system for most of our lives. At a guess I would say that is possibly 90% of the country.

    I think it's a bit much to be moaning about how the country hasn't made a complete change and adapted to something which is still relatively new.

    And to add another 2c, apart from wanting to be seen as more Euro-facing, I don't really see why it needed to be changed. Face it, most of our trade is from the UK, and most of our tourism is from there too.
    Right, that'll rattle the Brit-haters' cages a bit more then. On ye go...


  • Registered Users Posts: 21,382 ✭✭✭✭Alun


    Well, I'm 57, and was brought up in England with Imperial measurements, but apart from pints in the pub, I never use the old measurements at all in my daily life now. In fact I couldn't even tell you my weight in stones, or height in feet and inches without converting them from metric first. I've just come back from a walking holiday in England, and the look on peoples' faces when I talked about the distance we'd walked in kilometres was priceless.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 ✭✭✭Iwannahurl


    hmmm wrote: »
    It's just a generational thing. We grew up speaking about "miles, pence and pound", and even for me today they would be my instinctive words - it takes a mental switch to say kms, cents & euros. Human brains are complicated things and it's hard to break a pattern


    How does it takes a mental switch when road signs are already in Km and Km/h?

    Mind you, in that regard one of my personal favourite examples of Irish road signage is in Co. Clare near St. Tola's Church (aka Dysert O'Dea). When I was there a few years ago there were signs showing the distance as "1", without any units specified. After following the road for about a kilometre, I came across another identical sign directing me another "1" up a side road.

    Perhaps the OPW was doing the usual Irish thing of trying to keep everyone a little bit happy, in this case both metric European and Imperial British/American/Irish visitors.

    The signs can still be seen on Google Maps.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,205 ✭✭✭✭hmmm


    Iwannahurl wrote: »
    How does it takes a mental switch when road signs are already in Km and Km/h?
    Because a km means nothing to me, but I know in my head approximately how long a mile is.

    If we replaced kms in the morning with something else, you'd be doing a mental calculation back into kms.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 375 ✭✭NedNew2


    I think once all pre2005 cars disappear off the road then the usage of miles will fade rapidly. Its an anochronism at this stage but I do think the use of km really has taken hold in the past few years. I remember about 10 years ago to mention kms for distance would get some weird looks but now it is (thankfully) completely normal.

    We had a system where road signs were in km, spped limits in mph - that is non-sensical. The system we have now is modern, logical and sensible.

    I think also there isn't really c country which is 100% 'metric'. Central America for example use fluid ounces, otherwise it is totally metric. Peru uses a gallon for petrol measurements. Germany uses a Pfund (pound) for 500g (a metric rounded version) etc.

    Also in Spain and Italy there are many instance of people still converting euro prices mentally back to Pesetas and Liras, so its not just an Irish phenomenen.

    As an indicator who remembers cwt? My father mentioned lots of things were measured in cwt (hundred weight) back in his day. I've no idea how much that is.


  • Registered Users Posts: 773 ✭✭✭cnoc


    As an indicator who remembers cwt? My father mentioned lots of things were measured in cwt (hundred weight) back in his day. I've no idea how much that is.[/QUOTE]


    1 cwt = 112 lbs = 50.8 kg


  • Registered Users Posts: 773 ✭✭✭cnoc


    (maybe this belongs in After Hours? Apologies if it does..)

    I don't know why, but it bugs me a little when people still reference distances in Ireland in miles as opposed to kilometres.


    Would that be Irish miles or English miles?


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,320 ✭✭✭MrCreosote


    A mile is an easy distance to get a feel for, cos it's exactly 8 furlongs. Simple!

    Problem with a km is that it's just under 5 furlongs, which makes it much harder.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 ✭✭✭Iwannahurl


    hmmm wrote: »
    Because a km means nothing to me, but I know in my head approximately how long a mile is.

    If we replaced kms in the morning with something else, you'd be doing a mental calculation back into kms.


    I don't understand how a kilometre can "mean nothing", when our road signs and speed limits are in metric. If you can know it's a mile between two points, it's just as easy to know another two points between which it's 1 km, 2 km or whatever.

    When people go into a shop they don't normally have any trouble identifying a 2 litre container of milk, even if they don't read the label.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,156 ✭✭✭Iwannahurl


    MrCreosote wrote: »
    A mile is an easy distance to get a feel for, cos it's exactly 8 furlongs. Simple!

    Problem with a km is that it's just under 5 furlongs, which makes it much harder.

    About 40 furlongs from Glenties, Co. Donegal:
    Unfinished 1 ½ storey residence and mobile home on 6 Acres 2 Roods 6 Perches and one undivided eight part of 23 Acres 1 Rood and 13 Perches.

    http://www.daft.ie/sales/mulnamina-glenties-donegal/997547/


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,779 ✭✭✭Carawaystick


    Part of the reason is the fack it's 25% of the syllables to say miles

    I use the word yards instead of metres for this all the time except when I need better precision, like athletic races or such

    Then you have nautical miles, which are natural units, where each is one minute of arc of longitude of the sea where you are


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,205 ✭✭✭✭hmmm


    Iwannahurl wrote: »
    When people go into a shop they don't normally have any trouble identifying a 2 litre container of milk, even if they don't read the label.
    Have you seen the mental confusion caused to Irish people when they try and order "pints" in Europe and are given half litres? :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,779 ✭✭✭Carawaystick


    hmmm wrote: »
    Have you seen the mental confusion caused to Irish people when they try and order "pints" in Europe and are given half litres? :)

    That's not as bad as getting a pint across the Atlantic

    Germans still use a pfund unit of weight


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  • Registered Users Posts: 837 ✭✭✭Subpopulus


    Benster wrote: »
    Apart from wanting to be seen as more Euro-facing, I don't really see why it needed to be changed. Face it, most of our trade is from the UK, and most of our tourism is from there too.

    When Ireland decided to go metric in the early 70s the US and the UK were also going metric, the whole world was expected to be metric by the millennium. The US never really followed through on that, and the UK made most of the changes, except for things like road signs, food quantities, peoples weights etc.

    Basically, the whole of the developed world uses metric. If we hadn't changed we'd be left behind. Anywhere that doesn't use the metric system is either some backward third world country or the US. The US gets away with it because it's large and insular enough to have it's own measurement system. The UK, despite the things mentioned above, is largely metric. A small outward-looking economy like ours would have to use metric measurements to be able to efficiently compete for business etc.

    In any case, why use a random hodgepodge of old measurements (some of which go back to medieval times) that are often unfit for the twenty-first century, when there is a lovely interlinked decimal system sitting right there that virtually the entirety of the rest of the world uses.


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