Sunday, August 4, 2013

The American Weigh

I saw a friend this weekend who proudly told me he'd lost 3/4 of a stone. I lost about half a stone on my recent personal trainer kick. We compared notes on our fitness regimes and our goals for further firming up. And it struck me that TLOML was right again. He's been chipping away at the English 'stone' system for a while and I think he may be onto something.

His point is that a stone is a stupidly large unit to measure weight in. It's just so imprecise. 14 whole pounds go into a stone. On most people's frames a stone is a significant chunk of weight. And because it's so imprecise, we have to break it into fractions to make it meaningful. So we talk of losing (or gaining, but let's hope the talk is more of losing than gaining) a 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4 of a stone. Americans talk in pounds, which is much more sensible. So they'd talk of losing 5, or 10 or 20 lbs. I feel like I've got another 10lbs to lose, which is a lot more precise and manageable a concept than 2/3 of a stone.

The other problem with stone as a unit of measure is that it creates these big bands. My weight used to hover around 9 and a half stone, and I had 10 stone in my mind as a terrible boundary I must never cross. (Those really were the days). My weight could fluctuate by 7 or 10 lbs and I'd be perfectly comfortable, because it's really about the prefix: does the number start with a 9 or a 10? The smaller increments preferred by American give me a far narrower range within which I am comfortable, and I think that's a good thing.

For what it's worth I'm a good five pounds outside of that 'comfortable' range, and would dearly love to shed another ten if I can. (Though those unforgivingly tight jeans will be my ultimate measure). Which is far more manageable than the lumpen, unwieldy idea of trying to shed a third, or two thirds of a stone.

Given their ridiculous date system (you know, the month, then the day, then the year), and their baking units (ever tried to measure 'a cup' of butter?) it's surprising when our American cousins so clearly ace units of measure. On body weight, they have definitely done so.

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