I was talking, as you do, with fellow blogger Lisa Crye, who blogs here. She referenced the local temperature in the mid 40s and for just a fraction I thought ‘bloody hot’ until I remembered she lives in Virginia and it’s winter. She was talking in Fahrenheit, of course and my go to temperature referencing is Celsius. Which made me ask myself ‘When did that happen?’
When I was growing up, suburban sixties Britain, Celsius was for abroad, not for home. The French were all about 1-100 in measurements. Whereas we had Fahrenheit (freezing at 32), miles (1720 yards), pounds, weight (16 ounces) and pounds, money (20 shillings, 240 pence). I learnt about rods and perches, stones and crowns and guineas. It was like being in a secret squirrel club where you’d master one code only for another one to be thrown out at you.
We made one concession to joining the EU in 1972, decimalising the currency, dispatching the shilling to graze its retirement in the backs of dusty sofas and twisting the penny to become a bolder pence that formed one hundred parts of a pound. I think my parents saw it the same way as they did adding fluoride to the water, pop music, driving on the right and calling doctors by their Christian names: a bit too modern, too soft, too continental and conclusive proof of an irrevocable decline in standards.
There were battles between the imperials and the metrics, mostly over market traders being required to display produce in both pounds and kilos. We kept the pint of milk though.
What I don’t recall is any pressure on us to drop Fahrenheit, yet at some point I made that personal decision and now find it easier to think in Celsius. Yet I’m well aware we have yet to experience a temperature in the UK of 100 degrees F, a sort of classic dividing line between pre climate disaster and post: we cross that threshold and it’s a matter of time and we’re doomed, or at least that’s how the Mail Online will probably portray it.
I drive in miles, yet watch sport in metres and I’m definitely bi-scales when it comes to weights, capable of visualising both kilos, ounces and millilitres and pints.
But I’ve lost Fahrenheit.
Though, as I said to Lisa, at least I’ve not compromised myself so much that I can tolerate cups. If we are separated from our American cousins by a common language (the latest example being the Wordle furore that was caused by a recent answer being the American spelling of favour – with its innocent little ‘u’ having been excised, a very graphic example of the difference between u and non-u words (with apologies to Nancy Mitford)), that is as nothing to recipes in cups. No. Not right. I simple refuse.
It is strange how one’s plans can be hijacked: I was going to discuss whether I am right to be irritated by people talking about ‘their’ truth as opposed to ‘the’ truth. I’ve sort of concluded that there is some point distinguishing between an objective truth and a personalised one, even if all truths are a mix of fact and perception. Well, perhaps the Founding Fathers who found truths to be self evident might disagree but they were old school truths which today I suppose we think of as truisms. Truths, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth still allows for factual errors created by faulty perceptions. And if that is so, then how far a step is it to claim a truth for your own?
It was Mark Twain who said we should ‘get our facts in first so we can distort them’. That is perhaps where I was going with my concern about this recent focus on personalised truths. It is one thing to reveal ones experiences and perceptions that create this specific truth, even if it contradicts others equally valid experiences and perceptions. As with evidence in a court, two people might tell ‘the truth’ as they understand it yet be telling very different versions of what happened. And often one can easily replace ‘my truth’ with ‘my opinion’ or ‘my perception’ without doing damage to the context but reducing the power of the point being made by moving it from something that carries a connotation of fact which is what replacing ‘truth’ for those other words does.
Anyway, that’s what I was pondering and you may disagree. Just don’t tell me about your ‘lived’ experience of your truth, because tautologies grind my gears even more than split infinitives.
As you’ll understand from this post, it is International Curmudgeon Day when we celebrate know-all old grumps the world over. Our Patrons, Waldorf and Statler would send their best but they can’t be arsed.