An Outdoor View: Rounding up

In the dying throes of the 18th century, the French came up with a decimal-based way to measure stuff, the “metric” system. In the years since, most countries adapted to this system as enthusiastically as they’d greeted what the French did for toast, potatoes and kissing, until today, more than 200 years later, every industrialized country on earth has adopted the metric system as its official method of measuring.

Every country except the United States, that is.

We Americans, bless our hearts, bullheadedly resist change. Oh sure, we acknowledge that there’s another way of measuring that’s supposedly better than ours. We even tolerate “kph” on our speedometers and the occasional sign, so long as the “mph” appears in larger print. American manufacturers are slowly coming along, with many now listing measurements in the “better” way, right beside the proper way, except in small print and in parentheses.

Fishermen, paragons of persistence and highly resistant to change, will be among the last to convert. Oh, we know change will come, but we’re not about to do anything that might help to speed it along. Sure, we know that fish-weighing scales now read in both pounds and kilograms, and that measuring tapes are marked in inches and fractions of inches on one side and in millimeters and centimeters on the other, but we also know we have yet to hear anyone brag about catching a 12-kilogrammer.

As I see it, this slowness to adopt “metrication” is a good thing. I have wrenches, tape measures and other tools that I use to make and fix things measured in inches, and I’m not ready to take them to the dump. What’s more, I’d just as soon not have to do the mental conversions from metric sizes to inches, pounds, quarts and the other units of measure that I’ve worked with all my life. If the conversion to metric drags on for another 30 or 40 years, I probably won’t be around for the worst of the fallout.

I thought of one good thing about creeping metrication that has to do with fishing. As long as we’re putting off going metric, and we’re still making conversions to metric and back to our good-old way, there’s bound to be confusion. No one likes confusion, so here’s an idea for making something good come from it.

1) As anyone who fishes knows, bigger is always better.

2) I probably don’t need to tell you this, but fishermen have been “rounding up” the weight of fish since time immemorial. (As to whether rounding up is ethical, I can’t find my copy of “The Fisherman’s Creed” right now, but I’m sure it says that rounding up to the next whole number, and even to the next five or ten pounds, is not only proper, but expected by other fishermen.)

Therefore, in keeping with tradition, if a scale says a fish weighs 21 pounds, it’s appropriate to call that fish a 25-pounder.

3) If you convert the above 25-pounder to kilograms, you now have a fish that weighs 11.3 kilograms.

4) By rounding up that 11.3 kilograms to the next even 5 kilograms, the fish now weighs 15 kilograms.

5) In fairness to those who don’t “get” metric, convert that 15 kilograms back to pounds, and you have a 33-pounder.

6) Finally, with the goal of making the “true” weight easier to remember, round up that 33-pounds to an even 35 pounds.

The more I think about it, the more I’m liking the metric system.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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