11 Points

11 Cases Where Americans Happily Use the Metric System
written by Sam Greenspan

I just got back from a two-week trip overseas and, since I didn't go to Liberia or Burma, that meant two weeks deep in the throes of the metric system. (Although pizza and sub sandwiches still seemed to be measured in inches.)

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the places where Americans happily and naturally use the metric system. And as I researched it... I realized the metric system has really found a way into a lot of our vices.

Here are 11 cases where the U.S. uses metric measurements in everyday life.

  1. Delicious Stars and Stripes Cola.
    Soda - This is perhaps our most famous use of the metric system. Our soda comes in two-liter bottles. Occasionally one-liter bottles. And, if you're buying the generic Sam's Club brand, uncomfortably massive three-liter bottles. The rest of our soda doesn't go metric -- we have 12-ounce cans, 20-ounce bottles, and 64-ounce Double Gulps. Our other liquids -- milk, juice, Sunny D, purple stuff -- also aren't sold in liters. But, for whatever reason, soda is... and it seems like it always will be.

  2. Condoms - The thickness of condoms is measured using the metric system, because 0.0019685 inches is so much less suave and sexy than the hot hot roundness of 0.5 millimeters. The thickness of our pen tips is also measured in millimeters, but I felt like you'd be more inclined to read this if I went with condom thickness over pen thickness.

  3. Nutrition - We monitor fat, carbs, sugar, fiber, protein and the rest in grams. Well, we don't really monitor them, per se -- but we ARE aware they exist.

  4. Cocaine - Cocaine comes in grams and kilograms. I know this from movies. I have no idea what other drugs come in, but I assume anything imported from outside of the U.S. stays in metric measurements. It feels like a heroin dealer isn't going to sit there in the airport parking lot waiting for you to cough up balloons full of heroin THEN sit there doing math to convert their weights to ounces.


  5. A lot of classy carats.
    Diamonds - Carats are a metric unit without any imperial alternative. One carat is a very un-flashy 200 milligrams -- so carat is really more of a branding tool than a necessary measurement unit.

  6. Shorter running events where you probably don't even get a participation medal at the end - I was reluctant to describe 5Ks and 10Ks as "shorter running events" since I really don't like running and they feel long to me, but whatever. Those are our only running events in kilometers. Marathons and half-marathons are measured in miles. Gym teachers make you run a mile. And the NFL combine makes or breaks guys' entire lives based on a few hundredth of a second differences in 40-yard dash times.

  7. Caffeine - Caffeine (and prescription drugs) are measured in milligrams. BUT... we figure out the potency of a caffeinated drink using milligrams per ounce -- which is really the Bo Jackson of measurements.


  8. Keeping this safe to read at work.
    Breast implants - Breast implants are measured in cc's (which I felt warranted an apostrophe s pluralization). That's cubic centimeters. Fake breasts -- which are now truly an American institution -- are secretly metric. That's clearly the equivalent of American flags being made in China.

  9. DeLorean time machines - As we all know, it takes 121 jigawatts -- or gigawatts, if you believe Doc Brown was just oddly pronouncing a real word -- to power a DeLorean time machine. Watts are a metric measurement; horsepower is the U.S. equivalent. ("Horsepower" was coined by a guy named James Watt. That feels like a bar trivia question waiting to happen.) Anyway, based on Back to the Future Part II, we're only one year away from someone from the '80s time traveling forward to us using 121 jigawatts, or 162,263,673 horsepower, of power. Hide your sports almanacs and self-tying shoes.

  10. Powerful car engines - Every car's engine is described with liters now -- like a 6.1-liter Hemi engine or a 1-liter SMART car engine. It's explained here, but basically refers to the maximum amount of power a car's engine can produce. So, to review, if you drive your Hemi pickup truck to go get breast implants, some cocaine, a Red Bull, condoms, diamonds and a giant bottle of Dr. Skipper, you've basically had a completely metric American day.

  11. Guns - Everyone in the country is armed with a nine millimeter gun... ya know, just in case the King of England ever comes back here to try to convert this country to the metric system.


This post was originally published on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Travel.

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