It always amazes me how we — the human race — have such an ability to make things confusing. When it comes to currency, for example, I grew up in England in the days of “pounds, shillings, and pence.” As I wrote in my column on Cool Mechanical Calculators, “The way in which this worked was that there were 12 pennies in a shilling (also called a bob) and 20 shillings (240 pennies) in a pound.”

One problem is that we don’t like change and we tend to cling to whatever we grew up with. For example, when Great Britain retired the concept of pounds, shillings, and pence in 1971 and we officially adopted a decimal system in which a pound equaled 100 pennies, the majority of British citizens fought this move toward decimalization tooth-and-nail claiming that the new scheme was far too complicated and would never catch on!

According to Statista.com: “Only three countries — the U.S., Liberia, and Myanmar — still (mostly or officially) stick to the imperial system, which uses distances, weight, height, or area measurements that can ultimately be traced back to body parts or everyday items.”

This is as may be, but my chum Martin Rowe just sent me an email containing a mind-boggling chart titled “How to measure things like a Canadian,” which I just reproduced here for your delectation and delight. (See also What the FAQ are Celsius and Fahrenheit? and What the FAQ are Kelvin, Rankine et al?)

In his email, Martin noted, “In the 1970s, there was a push by the American government to get us to convert to metric. TV weather even gave the temperature in F and C. No more. The only thing that came out of that was the 2-liter bottle of soda.” Now I come to think about it, that’s true — 2-liter bottles of soda are the only things I’ve seen in metric since I moved to the USA 31 years ago.

I emailed my chum Aubrey Kagan, who currently hangs his hat in Canada, to ask, “Is this chart from the 1970s or is it still valid today?” Aubrey replied, “The chart is still valid today. The mismatch of engineering measurements created much checking when I was working on the arm for the International Space Station. All the mechanical dimensions from NASA were in FPS including nut/bolt threads. However, because my project was Canadian Government funded, all the CSA (Canadian Space Agency) measurements had to be in MKS. We really had to be careful. You didn’t want to get up there and find out the nut didn’t fit…”

How about you? Do you have any tales you’d care to share regarding nuts that didn’t fit or anything else of a unit conversion nature?