Monday, 6 December 2010

The Curious Case of the Metric Headlines in the Daily Mail

The metric system. Nice easy way of measuring things in units divisible by 10 or, in the words of Grandpa Simpson, "the tool of the devil"?

For many years now Britain's tabloids have been firmly in the latter camp. Despite the fact that every child born in Britain since at least 1979 has been schooled in the use of metres, kilograms and litres, the likes of the Mail, Express and, at the "higher" end of the market, the Telegraph are united in their hatred of all things metric.

It's an "un-British" imposition being forced on us by politically correct lefties and the European Union, quite probably in the name of Elf 'N' Safety. To quote Grandpa Simpson a second time, their attitude has been very much along the lines of: "My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's they way I likes it!"

Just this morning in the Daily Mail, columnist Peter Hitchens bemoaned the way the evil decimal-based system was being used in reports about the Snowpocalypse:

"The intensifying campaign to force the foreign, unwieldy metric system on the British people continues apace. Broadcasters and newspapers have virtually abolished the yard (still lawfully used on thousands of road signs) and the foot. But their most determined campaign is against the inch. Why do the weather people insist on telling us that 10cm of snow have fallen? Partly, they do it because they are fanatics. Partly because it sounds much worse than 4in. A country halted by 4in of snow sounds – and is – rather pathetic."

You know that when the Mail - and in particular Peter Hitchens - says "broadcasters" he's really complaining about the BBC. In the past he's even FoI'd the Corporation to try and uncover official rules that force Beeb hacks to use metric measurements over imperial ones. But perhaps he should start his crusade a little closer to home. Because also in today's Daily Mail is this headline:

What's that decidedly foreign-looking measure of temperature in the headline? Could it be - gasp! - a metric unit? In the past week there have been many, many more sightings of the metric menace in Mail headlines:

Extra points for the mix-and-match approach in the last one there.

So why is the Mail using the "foreign, unwieldy metric system" in its headlines? Could it be that "minus 7c" sounds, colder, scarier and generally more Snowpocalyptic than a rather pathetic "19f"?

Just in case you can't be arsed to read the comments underneath, I should point out that Hitch's column appeared in the Mail on Sunday yesterday (5 December), not this morning's main paper. However, it was published on the Mail website this morning.


Anonymous said...

It's probably worth pointing out that Peter Hitchens writes for the Mail on Sunday, not the Daily Mail.

However, both newspapers still frequently mix metric and imperial measurements. It's bizarre, especially given their supposed hatred of all things metric.

bnm said...

In the summer they'll revert to farenheit. It's always been like this with the tabloids.

Anonymous said...

I can't remember who it was but a comedian once said that people who use Fahrenheit measurements when it's hot, always use Celsius when it's cold.

You never hear someone saying, "Ooh, it's so cold out there. It's 28 degrees!"

Anonymous said...

I was born in '66 and only ever used metric and SI at school. Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Haha. Liking the use of 'unwieldy' in Hitchen's description. Bloody divisions of ten. Nightmare. i want my divisions in odd numbers, preferably prime numbers too.