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4 Hilarious Attempts to Fix Things That Weren't Broken

#2. Metrication

The metric system is the system of measures that most of the world uses for measuring things. All of its fundamental units can be increased or decreased by powers of 10 to arrive at different units, making calculations and conversions straightforward, with minimal need for memorization. Really, the whole thing works swimmingly well. So long as you use it.

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You see where I'm going with this.

The United States does not use the metric system, and instead still uses a system of measures based on the size of various parts of their anatomy. Although most of the world switched to the metric system in the 19th century, the English-speaking world managed to hold off until the 1970s, when they eventually acknowledged the benefits of the metric system and caved in. Only the United States refused.

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All 11 trillion hogshead/feet of it.

Obviously, there are some serious complications in switching your country's system of measurement. All your old signs are now useless. Any data you gathered in the old units have to be converted before they can be reused, which is a big problem for things like engineering or surveying. And all of your old recipes and calculations and empirical formulas have to be redone. Converting to a new system of measurement basically consigns your country to a muddled few years where everyone has to scratch their heads and be capable of converting between the two.

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"I'll have a six-pack, please."
"Sir?"
*sigh* "I'll have 0.6 decabeers, please."

Consequently, when the United States sort of tried to implement the metric system, it did so only on a voluntary basis, with no mandate to force the private sector to use it, which the private sector, taking one look at all the hassle, promptly didn't do. The metric system was adopted in weird sorts of half measures. It's essentially universal in the sciences, but much less so in engineering, and almost nonexistent in construction. In consumer goods, there's an odd mishmash of units, where most items are sold in ounces or hogs or whatever, with a few odd exceptions, like 2-liter bottles of Coke, or 2 grams of coke, or 9 mm ammunition.

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Which could come in handy for either your Coke or your coke-dealing business, I'm not sure which.

It's really the worst of all possible worlds, the metric system having penetrated enough that if you're in any field where you have to measure things, you have to be capable of working with both systems, and if you make any mistakes, oh whoops, you've lost a $125 million spaceship. Instead of a few years of confused conversions, the United States has backed itself into a few decades of confused conversions instead.

#1. Spelling Reform

I've talked a bit about how messed up English spelling is before, but in summary, the English language was assembled without any thought, planning, or shred of common sense whatsoever, mainly by mashing different languages into a blender. The spelling, needless to say, suffers for it. There are essentially no useful rules to learn English spelling other than practice and rote memorization. The alphabetic principle (words should be spelled the way they sound) only occasionally works, and every shorthand "I before E" rule we learn has so many exceptions that by the time we learn all those exceptions, we've just done rote memorization again. If you need a specific example, consider how the sequence of letters "ough" has between six and 10 pronunciations, depending on where you live in the English-speaking world.


"Coughing is rough, though," I thought, ploughing through a contrived example.

A number of different people have proposed spelling reform over the years, with varying degrees of success. Noah Webster, for example, managed to turn "publick" into "public," but couldn't quite pull off some of his other proposals, like turning "soup" into "soop" or "women" into "wimmen."

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"I ran my tung over the wimmen in turn, looking for the one that tasted most like soop."

The main problem with spelling reform is that there's no one in charge of the English language. The guys who write our dictionaries are the closest, and even then you can see the limits of Webster's power. Even if you run the dictionary factory, to truly make a spelling change take hold, you first must convince basically every English speaker to listen to you, and who the fuck do you think you are? Countries with officials in charge of their language (most of them, actually) are capable of pulling this off; in the 1990s, Germany did something with all those extra F's and S's in their words. Added more of them, I think. But for us unregulated English speakers? We'll just have to laugh and stomach the fact that we'll never be able to "laff" and "stumuk" it.


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and may be partially responsible for the world being bullshit. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to express your dismay.

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