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North America versus Europe, the decimal point
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larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/10/2012 11:09:30 MDT Print View

Looking at new climbing rucksacks I stumbled on the Millet Prolight and scrolling to the bottom of the listing to check the weight I discovered it weighs 1,250 kg.
Holy crapola, that's well over a ton, must be a typo and again looking at a down jacket that weighed over half a ton I started thinking it wasn't a failure to proof read but intentionally listed this way.
How can I live on this planet for so many turns of the moon and not know Europe uses the comma instead of the period as a decimal point?
Do I operate on some type of myopic Norte Americano arrogance. As Chris Lowe said " stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way." Evidently it got me this far.
Before I turn into compost are there any more of these little unknown surprises out there?

Edited by pyeyo on 09/10/2012 11:10:20 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/10/2012 11:13:25 MDT Print View

Bean counters use M instead of K to mean a thousand

Now I see why the tax code (written by bean counters) is so screwed up - they're using Roman Numerals rather than the modern decimal system...

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
The Lowly Decimal Point and Other Gotcha's on 09/10/2012 11:55:53 MDT Print View


I really enjoyed your post. I'm a consultant specializing in a German software package (SAP) and the default numeric format when setting up new users is to give them the comma as the decimal point and vice-versa. It can be very confusing and frustrating for most of us until it is switched back.

The other "gotcha" can be the European date format...In the States we usually start with the month (i.e. MM/DD/YYYY). In Europe it's likely that a date will start with the day with the month in the middle (i.e. DD-MM-YYYY).

If you end up ordering something and get a confirmation which indicates that it will ship on 05-11-2012 don't be alarmed that they shipped it several months before you ordered it...

Jen Churchward
(mahgnillig) - F
date on 09/10/2012 13:29:23 MDT Print View

The date thing in North America is just bizarre... it always makes me wonder who thought that was a good idea! It makes much more sense to start with the the smaller unit and work up (DD/MM/YY), or the larger unit and work down like time (HH:MM:SS). Whoever came up with putting the smaller unit in the middle must have been smoking something. And of course, since the US is so bullheaded about keeping its own measurements despite being different from everyone else in the entire world, we are stuck with it, just like we are stuck with inches and pounds.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/10/2012 13:53:11 MDT Print View

Most Americans also say August twenty third, september eleven, etc.

We write them as we use them, month, day, and a year where needed.

Jeremy and Angela
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: The Lowly Decimal Point and Other Gotcha's on 09/10/2012 13:56:33 MDT Print View

I usually advocate for ISO 8601 dates (YYYY-MM-DD), in large part because they sort correctly but also because this ambiguity is avoided.

On the decimal point, however, in my opinion the rest of the world clearly has it wrong. A comma implies continuation, whereas a full stop implies an end to that portion of the number.

The Wikipedia article suggests this difference may have been due to ancient practice, with dots already in use as spacers for Roman numerals and a mix of characters (commas, short vertical lines, even dots) used to separate the fractional part of the number.

Another oddity for you Larry would be floor numbering in buildings; the European convention is a zero based system: Ground (zero'th) floor, first floor, second floor etc.

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Degrees Centigrade on 09/10/2012 14:01:02 MDT Print View

What makes no sense is the Centigrade scale, with "normal" winter temps (not really that cold) in lots of places being a negative number.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Multiple Systems on 09/10/2012 15:09:38 MDT Print View

Larry: Yes, commas are decimals points and decimal points are commas. If, by context, you can't tell a thousand-fold difference as you did, one maybe should take Backpacking 101, Circuits 101 or Rocket Science 101.

Differences in American English and British English (or is it "English English" or "E^2"?) used to include the meaning of "Billion" and "Trillion", etc. Billion" in the old, pre-1974, British long scale was 1,000,000,000,000 whereas in the USA, Billion in the short scale has always been 1,000,000,000. I still occasionally see usages of the long scale, but it has gotten pretty uncommon and, like its practioneers, dying out.

We'll probably always differ on chips/crisps, fries/chips, cookies/biscuits, biscuits/scones, trunk/boot, hood/bonnet, windshield/windscreen, fender/wing, etc.

Dates: Yeah, the Europeans just do it better than we do. Ascending or descending but not all mixed up. Especially now for sorting computer files, I hope the USA will switch. Like 24 hour clocks for schedules, we're already being introduced to it in transportation and the military.

>"since the US is so bullheaded about keeping its own measurements despite being different from everyone else in the entire world"

Jen: I get your point and agree, but Liberia not only copied aspects of our flag (freed USA slaves took over there in the 19th century) but retains feet, pounds, etc. And then there's Burma. If your country stands against the rest of the world and WITH Liberia and Burma, maybe it's time for a change?!?

>"with "normal" winter temps (not really that cold) in lots of places being a negative number."

Daniel: Ah, but that is true in the Farenheit system as well. At least at my house. I experienced a interesting local usage here in Alaska. Everyone uses "plus" and "minus"/"below" between -10F and +10F), but -15F is just "15" if you're talking about the day's weather because everyone knows pretty closely what the temps are. "It was 13 at my house." "Oh, it was 16 when I got up." can refer to mild or moderate cold. "It was 5 this morning" would be +5F, because -5F would have been called "5 below". That assumption of knowing the temperature within 20 degrees goes away if speaking about past or future or distant events.

An easy solution to the plus/minus is to just use an absolute scale like Kelvin or Rankine. All your expanding gas and infrared emission calculations get much easier than way. "With these 260K temps, the lake ice will be strong by next week." or "We had a great dump on Thursday but then Friday got to 495R and it ruined the snow for skiing."

The UC Berkeley Hiking Club was very heavy in geeks. At a gathering, someone referred to a temperature of -40 and someone else was foolish enough to ask "Celsius or Farenheit?" The mass response of "It doesn't matter!" was deafening.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 09/10/2012 15:12:30 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Degrees Centigrade on 09/10/2012 20:59:10 MDT Print View

Water freezes at zero. Its kind of important. There is nothing that makes sense in the iimperial measurement system. Although in Canada in the oil industry we use a metric imperial mix. Any calculation or measurement is done in metric but in coversation you will use imperial values. The only unit that is never switched between is temperature because farenheit does not make sense.

Now i realize that farenheit is kinda a lay person system where 0 is cold and 100 is hot but that makes some fairly big assumption on what people consider hot and cold 0 f isnt really that cold although i melt at 100

Edited by GregF on 09/10/2012 21:01:32 MDT.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Celsius on 09/11/2012 01:39:54 MDT Print View

Centigrade, with or without Degrees, is often used in casual conversation, but the SI units of temperature are Celsius (without 'degrees').

As for commas denoting thousands, these are NOT commonly used here - I thought that was an American convention!

James Connolly
(jamespjc) - MLife

Locale: TX
When is a pint not a pint? on 09/11/2012 07:22:59 MDT Print View

As a Brit living in the US, I always feel a little cheated when I order a pint as its 20-25% smaller than in the UK. The upside is that I can drink more pints, but then feel like a lightweight (and not in a good BPL kind of way) when I go for a drink with friends. Oh well it would be boring if we were all the same!

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Metric Distances in the US on 09/11/2012 07:55:45 MDT Print View

The Mid State Trail runs North/South through the center of Pennsylvania and is one of my favorite trails to hike. What's unique about it is that all the distances are in kilometers. Any signage along the trail as well as the trail guide itself are all in metric units ("the spring is approximately 200 m to the right").

Mid State Trail Sign

It's probably one of the few US trails that uses metric measurements. The good news is that a KM on the trail goes a lot faster than a mile on the trail so you can feel you're making good time...

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Metric on 09/11/2012 08:03:38 MDT Print View

I remember a 10K race i did with a friend. He was an experienced runner, so when he really went for it at the 6k mark, i let him go, assuming he was feeling strong. I passed him shortly afterwards.
It turned out he had suffered a mindf**k.
He had got it into his head that the '6' sign was 6 miles, and he was sprinting for the finish. As most folk will know, 10k is 6.2 miles! :-)

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/11/2012 15:46:30 MDT Print View

Always funny to read how Celsius (centigrade) does not make sense...
Anything that is different from what you are used to does not make sense (at first)

However it really is very simple.
Zero is the freezing point (32 f good grief !!!)
100 is the boiling point (212 F ???)
Anything below zero is progressively colder anything above gets progressively warmer.
So -40 c (-40f) is twice as cold as -20c (3.99f)
And thay is why everywhere except for the US and yes Belize people use Celsius.

BTW, the use of the decimal point/comma is confusing however not really when to understand the u measurement so it is pretty obvious to a metric user that a pack is 1.4 kg not 1400 kg.
As for the date , we typically want to know what day it is /will be . We know that we are in September but what day ?
So in Australia it is Wed , the 12th of September 2012
Here is a map of date usage around the world

Date usage
Blue is d/m/y
Yellow is y/m/d
the others have mixed usage
and then there is the US ....

Edited by Franco on 09/11/2012 16:00:17 MDT.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/11/2012 17:13:03 MDT Print View

Thanks Franco!!!

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Re: North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/11/2012 17:17:20 MDT Print View

Purple = beacon of hope, oasis, etc.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/11/2012 17:25:44 MDT Print View

I never meant to cause you any sorrow.
I never meant to cause you any pain.
I only wanted to one time see you laughing.
I only wanted to see you laughing at the purple rain.

Purple rain, purple rain.
what about Anachronism again ?
purple rain, purple rain

Edited by Franco on 09/11/2012 17:26:49 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: North America versus Europe, the decimal point on 09/11/2012 17:42:53 MDT Print View

Decent choon Franco ;-)

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Third World Concerns on 09/11/2012 18:19:38 MDT Print View

Third World concerns about how America does things are so quaint. Quick to copy our trends, our music, our culture (all for good and bad), our vehicles, our tents and our backpacks, they're quick to whine about our use of outdated measurements?


K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Third World Concerns on 09/11/2012 18:43:07 MDT Print View

Third world?