Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How many kilometres to Babylon?

How many kilometres to Babylon

 I have no idea but I do know that the imperial-measurement journey sounds a whole lot more exciting.

Do you know of any titles/poems/songs/sayings involving metric measurements? If not, can I challenge you to write one?

Imagine Robert Frost, on a snowy evening, having kilometres to go before he slept; Peter, Paul and Mary hearing the whistle blow 160.9344 kilometres; or the Proclaimers proclaiming that they would walk 804.67200 kilometres – and then 804.67200 more.

Imagine if, in the Hebridean lament, you 'woke up in Canada 4828.032 kilometres from hame'. It's no further than three thousand miles but it would be a lot less poetic in the telling.

Or if the old philosopher said, A journey of 1609.344 kilometres must begin with a single step.

You get the drift – if you have 25g of common sense.

I was taught imperial measurements at school and although I can use metric equivalents I always have to make the translation – divide by x, multiply by y (or is it the other way round?). I will never think in metric.

Language would be less picturesque without these phrases:

a milestone birthday

across the miles

going the extra mile

given an inch you’d take a mile

I was miles away.

Many thanks to www.milestonesociety.co.uk for permission to use their images*. Before I started this blog post I had no idea there was a Milestone Society – wonderful stuff. There’s a whole new vocabulary there – wayside markers, waymarkers, finger posts, turnpikes; and fascinating history – 117 Roman waymarkers still exist and around 9000 other milestones, but most were removed during World War II and not replaced. Check out the links on the website too, including one to wayside verse.

 * except the first picture of the Sarum stone which is from http://www.mere-wilts-heritage.info


  1. Love it, Kate - we'll add a link from our wayside verse page next time we update the website! Jan ~

  2. Thanks again, Jan, for the pictures, and for the future link.