By - klystron
"Pre-metric" is valid, but I feel like that really only works in countries where metric is commonplace in general culture...as in, not the US (and probably not the UK either, though that's a little more iffy). So you'd probably just end up with a confused audience.
As for "Imperial", I don't really agree with the author here. As others have said, that term really only refers to the British system; the American versions are really "pre-Imperial". I think it's fine to call stuff like length and avoirdupois mass (pound and under) "Imperial"; that's the same regardless of region. But the US gallon and short ton are really not Imperial.
I agree that "US customary" sounds totally loaded, but it's also used in official US laws, so not much you can do there. You could just say "US units" and leave it at that, but in some ways that still seems a little loaded against metric (still propagating that "un-American" idea).
I think "English units" is an acceptable term to encompass both Imperial and US units, as both are connected to English historical culture. It sort of has a similar issue to "US units" (seeming un-patriotic), but I don't think there's a better alternative here.
As for "system", you could say it's not valid to refer to the units themselves as such (whereas it is with metric: for example, the gram is connected to the mass of a specific volume of water). However, the foot-pound-second system of derived units *is* still a system, clunky as it might be. And even as far as the units go, many of them aren't unrelated and have whole-number unit conversions, though you could argue that they're all defined in terms of decimal fractions of metric, so I can't really say anything to that.
This is an interesting discussion about the timeline on the evolution of the imperial system through to today's official US Customary name. I learned a few things. I am more of a user of the metric system than a historian. When it comes to electromotive force, the USC has no unit so it borrows the unit of volt from the metric system. The volt is a J/C (joule/coulomb). It is not defined as a BTU per unit charge. When a volt is expressed in terms of the metric base units it is coherently 1 kg·m² / A·s³. There are no USC units here.
When you have a system that is so discombobulated (sp) that it needs to borrow from the metric system, that is a bit pathetic. Amongst friends that are not metrified I respectfully call it the US Customary units. Amoungst my engineering friends we call it the Pathetic System. Perhaps the r/Metric group & The Metric Maven could have a little fun and adopt the more appropriate name... Pathetic System instead of USC, Imperial, etc. :)
The US units are not Imperial as Imperial is a specific overhaul of British measures in 1824 and the US adopted none of those changes. The only units common to British and US measure are the ones that did **not** change in the Imperial overhaul.
US measure is British **pre-Imperial** measure. NIST calls it Customary or US Customary, which works for me. All the units we use were in use before 1776 and we kept using them. However, we did not formally adopt them until 1832, which was a direct repudiation of Imperial. I like to joke that since we found them in a dustbin, we can name them whatever we want.
I know that many object to the term "English units" but we use them to refer to the entire pantheon of Imperial and Customary measures. They all came from the English corner of the United Kingdom.
> I know that many object to the term "English units" but we use them to refer to the entire pantheon of Imperial and Customary measures. They all came from the English corner of the United Kingdom.
I think they go much farther back than England. Back to roman and even to Babylonian times. Of course they kept changing over time, but that seems to get ignored by the followers.
There is an irony in all of this. Metric is said to originate in England via a man by the name of John Wilkins and brought to France by the Americans who cleaned it up and made it a working system. So, the English and Americans reject the system they helped create and push out into the world and cling to the units that forced on them by foreign invaders.
A very strange set of circumstances.
The Metric Maven discusses the name for traditional American measures. Should they be called US Customary measures or Imperial?
And if it's OK to call American measures Imperial, does it matter that the British have their own Imperial measures?
Lumping pre-imperial units in with imperial is done to give this non-SI collection of units a unified face to challenge SI. Only a few people know or even care that there is a difference. Those who use US customary rarely if ever encounter imperial and those that use imperial rarely if ever encounter US Customary. If they do encounter the other, they don't often know they did.
Except for Canadians, who face this frequently.
Are you saying this because the Canadians have an extreme mix of imperial, USC, SI and cgs metric? So in the case of Canada, USC and imperial are so mixed that they are a somewhat unified collection of pre-metric units and Canadians can never know without further examination which version they are encountering?
Exactly. Before metrication, they used Imperial domestically, but also considerable Customary (where different) for import/export. They are probably 60% metric, but the balance is still split between the two "English" unit systems due to their large foreign trade with the US. It is far larger than their trade with "rest of world."
They have to comply with US labeling law on prepackaged products they export to the US, and they let a lot of Customary slip by because US labeling law requires dual net contents declaration including SI. They probably have more of this dilemma than any other country, although others have isolated examples of it.
I'm not sure about cgs metric as an "issue." Centimeters and grams are SI units, but the specially named, derived units are deprecated. (Ignoring the obvious kilogram is a base unit so gram is a "prefixed"unit by deletion of the kilo prefix??? WTF.)
As a Canadian draught beer drinker, this is extremely frustrating.
I'm sure it can be because when someone tries to sell you an ounce or gallon of something, you don't know which you are getting? I thought as far as Canada is concerned, all trade had to be in metric and others units could only be used as an afterthought.
More in reference to a US pint, which is remarkably smaller. Many US owned franchises will sell a 16oz 'pint'.
I like pre-metric! I am going to call it that now