Speakers Do The Hard Yards With Metres And Meters
Once and for all, is it kil-om-etres or kil-o-metres?
Don’t you get fed up with some people, including newsreaders, who can’t get it right?
As a lover of language, I offer this easy explanation of how and why we should pronounce the word correctly.
It’s not that I love to whine, it’s just that I like to speak correctly. Probably, you do too. Whine not?
First let me tell you about the baro-meter. That’s the instrument we use to measure atmospheric pressure. What? That should be bar-om-eter? Well, of course it should.
In this case the meter (m-e-t-e-r) measures the air pressure. Like your electricity meter measures your electricity usage.
Then there’s the thermo-meter. That’s what they slip under your tongue to measure your blood temperature. But it’s a measuring instrument. So it has to be a ther-mom-eter. It measures something, but that’s heat, not distance.
Now let’s turn to the measurement of length – or distance.
We used to call the length of the first joint of your index finger an inch. And 12 inches make up one foot. That was the length of your average Roman soldier’s foot in a sandal – 12 inches.
The soldier’s walking reach was called a pace, from the Latin passus, and a thousand paces made up a Latin mille passus. That is, one mile.
Every thousand paces, the Roman legions would lay down a large stone beside their Roman road.
This, of course, became known as the “mile-stone”. That is how the Romans measured and mapped England and Europe 2000 years ago. Measuring distance by pacing it out.
In the metric system, perversely invented by the French, and spread like the pox throughout Europe, a metre (m-e-t-r-e) is a unit of measurement or length, not an instrument that tells us the temperature or the barometric pressure .
So let’s stick with distance. Your first index finger-joint probably measures about 2.5 cent-i-metres. Sorry, I mean centi-metres. A centimetre is one-hundredth of a metre. Hence we talk about centi-metres and mili-metres.
Why, then, is it so hard for us to call the distance between Maroochydore and Brisbane correctly? Not 100 kil-om-eters but 100 kilo-metres?
And, Mr Newsreader, the wind moves in kilo-metres per hour.
The trouble with English is that we no longer learn in school how our language came about or what the words we say actually mean.
Kph means kilo-metres per hour and of course “Speed Kills”. Don’t let’s kill our language by calling them kil-om-etres.
That just shows our ignorance.