Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Confused, you will be....

Some of my international friends believe the UK can be a little, shall we say, confusing. Sarcasm apart (and read into that what you will), we measure distances in miles, land in acres and weight in stone. Yes, we have liters for petrol (gasoline) but that only came into effect at the outbreak of the first Gulf War as the prices hiked and no one really understood what 95p per liter was compared to the good old gallon. And we measure whiskey by the gill, but that would be a different gill between England and Scotland. And then again the US gallon needs an extra top up of around 20% just to make it to the table with its English cousin. At least we no longer have 240 pence to the pound and let's not even discuss the good old guinea (which I could have sworn was equal to twenty one shillings but let's let that one go).

However, don't even get me started on Japan. Ok, do. And let's start at the beginning. The counting system, for example, revolves around "base 4" rather than "base 3". And yes, I did just hear you go "huh?". Western numeracy would refer to 10,000 i.e. 10 x 1,000 however the Japanese system would refer to 10,000 (ichiman, if you were wondering) as one, ten thousand or 1 x 10000. Confused, you will be... Especially when you go to the cash machine and take out several thousand dollars rather then the intended few hundred. Or see the apartment rental steal of the century only to find it is ten times the price you were thinking.

Currency is maybe easier; for a start there are no decimal points (watch the IT system programmer go white when you mention this). In days of yore there were 100 sen to the yen and one yen to the dollar. And then there was a small Pacific incident. There are 2,000 yen notes but they're not used as they're generally considered unlucky being divisible by two. One plate is ichi-mai, a bottle i-ppon, a minute i-ppun and a typhoon ichi-go. And if you really want to show off, a pair of chopsticks (hashi) are not the expected "ni-hon" (two long thin, round things) but rather ichi-zen; being one pair. So next time you become confused between stones and pounds, miles and kilometers, tsubo and square meters just pause, and take a moment, and be glad it isn't MCMXCIX any more. Unless an Imperial succession occurs and then it could be 29 and 1. But that's another story. 


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