I was reading a European based book recently and the characters were using, very naturally, some metric measurements. And it occurred to me, not for the first time, how much our language is tied up with how we measure things, both literally and metaphorically.
It was a real milestone in my thinking.
So if we were metric, how would the previous sentence read? “It was a real kilometer stone in my thinking”? “It was a real kilometer marker in my thinking”? Soldiers call kilometers "klicks." So “a real klick-stone in my thinking”?
What do metric folks talk about when they get good fuel economy on their automobiles? They certainly can't say they get good mileage. Do they get good kilometerage?
When they talk about someone taking too much, is the saying, "Give them a centimeter and they'll take a meter"?
Do they walk a kilometer in someone else's shoes to understand them better? Would Sherlock Holmes tell Watson that the game is a-ten centimeters?
If someone's slow or cautious and they're just inching along, will they just be centimetering along?
Likewise at a birthday party, do you give someone a pinch to grow a centimeter? Doesn't have quite the same poetic flair does it?
Or how about "It scared me within an inch of my life"? Somehow saying, "It scared me within a centimeter of my life" takes all the emotionality out of it. Like a scientist is there actually measuring the precise length of life left.
Heaven forbid anyone would want to go the whole nine yards anymore. How noble sounding is it to say you need to go the whole nine meters?
Or what about when someone wants to foot the bill? Talk about confusing.
I wouldn't touch that with a 3 meter pole.
America, ya gotta love it.