Metrication had been about for a while - the French had been dividing things by ten since the late 18th century - but it wasn't until the 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1960 that the Systeme International d'Unites, or SI system, was introduced, specifying kilograms, metre, second, Kelvin, ampere and candelas.
It is hard to shake off. Even though I was born ten years after metrication, I still think of my height in feet and inches, my weight in stones, my cheese in pounds (half-pounds, my wife would prefer) and my fields, when I get them, in acres. And yet it is hard to think of petrol in anything but litres for some reason.
I know that metrication makes more sense, but it does kill some of the joy of arbitrary measurement, as the image above shows. Leonardo's Vitruvian Man demonstrates different measurements based on the body from the fathom (or six feet) to the cubit (measured from the finger tip to the elbow).
Then there is the chain (66ft, which survives in the length of a cricket pitch), the furlong (originally the distance a team of oxen could plough without resting and about the length of ten chains), the cable (100 fathoms, after the anchor line on most ships), the gill (a third of a pint, from the Old French gille, or an earthenware pot) and the rod (51/2 yards, the length of an ox-goad).
It's delightful and non-specific (like my approach to time-keeping). The world was a happier place when people were less exact.
However, metrication has given us one important thing: the dialogue between Vincent and Jules at the start of Pulp Fiction.
Vincent: you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: Nah, man, they got the metric system, they wouldn't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: What do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a Royale with Cheese
Jules: "Royale with Cheese."
Vincent: That's right.
Jules: What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: A Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac
Jules: "Le Big Mac." What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent: I don't know, I didn't go in to Burger King