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AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH KILOGRAM OF CURE

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There are three things I never want to outlive: my children, my talent and the conversion to metric.

They (note to editor: Don't ask me who "they" are. I don't know, but they do) tried to jam metric down our throats 15 years ago, and people would have no part of it.If "they" thought for one minute women were going to have a label sticking out of their dresses that read "size 63," they were nuts.

Now the controversy is back again, and they're serious about taking away our customary system of measurements and substituting all those foreign ones. It won't fly. Metric has failed miserably in this country because people are turned off by bigger numbers. They don't want to admit polishing off 340 grams of peanut butter. On the other hand, using a 12-ounce jar to pack school lunches doesn't seem so bad.

And don't hold your breath waiting for a Miss America to give her measurements at 90-50-87.5 centimeters.

They thought if they put the metric measurements next to the customary ones on cans and boxes, Americans would learn how to speak metric fluently. This has not happened. How many people do you know who go to a convenience store and say, "I want a six-pack of 355-milliliter root beer"?

I admit I have never been quick to accept change. My kids, who speak metric like native mets, don't see a problem with all this. "Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile," I groused.

My son said, "You mean give 'em 2.54 centimeters and they'll take 1.609 kilometers."

"Where did you learn gutter language like that?" I asked.

"It's simple, Mom. Just remember: 226.8 grams in eight ounces, .454 kilogram is a pound, and one meter has 3.3 feet - except, of course, liters, kilometers and hectares, which are different."

I nailed a sign over the sink, "English spoken here."

I hate all of this. Not only will I not know what shoe size I wear or how much I weigh, now I won't even know where I am and how long it has taken me to get here . . . if I knew where "here" was.

1992 Erma Bombeck

Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate