Shopkeeper: Good morning. How can I help you?
Philip: Hi. Could I get 1kg of potatoes, and 200g of green peppers please?
Shopkeeper: Sure. Anything else?
Philip: How much are the onions?
Shopkeeper: They’re $2 per kilo.
Philip: Ok, I’ll take 3 onions please.
Shopkeeper: Certainly. Is that all?
Philip: Yes, thanks.
Shopkeeper: That’ll be $5.22.
Philip: Do you take cards?
Shopkeeper: I’m afraid not.
Philip: OK. There’s 5 50.
Shopkeeper: And 28 cents change. Thanks.
Shopkeeper: Good afternoon, how can I be of assistance?
Anna: Could I get 200g of the ham, 150g of that cheese, and a jar of olives please?
Shopkeeper: Of course. Would you like the ham sliced?
Anna: No, thanks.
Shopkeeper: Can I get you anything else?
Anna: Yes, can I have a punnet of the cherries too, please?
Shopkeeper: Certainly. Is that all?
Anna: Yes, thanks. How much do I owe you?
Shopkeeper: That’ll be ₤8.23 please.
Anna: There’s 10.
Shopkeeper: And ₤1.27 change.
Anna: Oh, just put that in the charity box.
Shopkeeper: No problem. Thanks for coming. Have a nice day.
The rise of the supermarkets has killed many smaller businesses in developed countries because, by buying their produce in bulk, they can offer cheaper products than local merchants. Whilst many people enjoy the romantic idea of the local friendly shop, ‘money talks’ and more and more people are doing their weekly shop in supermarkets. The days of the local bakery, butcher’s shop, greengrocers, and delicatessen may be on the way out, replaced by every city and town having the same big names. Furthermore, out-of-town shopping centres and malls attract people from the city and the countryside. Indeed, such is the lure of the supermarkets that many people have already said ‘the death of the high street’ is close (or perhaps is already here). ‘Save our High Street’ campaigns have started to spring up in many places.
The majority of the world combines the decimal system (counting in tens) and a metric system (measuring units of 10s: 1m = 100cm; 1 kg = 1000g), but there are a few countries that do not. Two of the biggest exceptions are the USA and the UK who, despite using decimal systems, still often use the ‘imperial system’ to measure.
The imperial system was introduced across the British Empire in the 19th century. It does not use units of ten, but often 3, 8 or 12. Some examples are:
• 12 inches = 1 foot; 3 feet = 1 yard (1 yard = 0.9144m)
• 22 yards = 1 chain; 10 chains = 1 furlong; 8 furlongs = 1 mile (1 mile = 1.609344 km)
• 20 fluid ounces = 1 pint; 8 pints = 1 gallon (1 gallon = 4.54609 litres)
• 16 ounces = 1 pound; 14 pounds = 1 stone (1 stone = 6.35029318 kg)
• 12 pence = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = 1 pound (this was British money until 1971)
Although this system looks very complicated to modern eyes, at the time it made sense (for example, things such as eggs were often bought by the dozen). Although Britain attempted to move away from the imperial system, many older people found it difficult and, through custom and tradition, it has lived on.
The imperial system is outdated, but the decimal and metric systems may not be perfect. A lot of machines use a binary system (two numbers, 0 and 1), and a few people argue that a system based on 12 numbers makes more sense than 10s (time is counted in 12s, and mathematically 12 can be divided into 2, 3, 4, and 6 (10 can only be 2 and 5)). This system (called ‘the duodecimal system’) introduces two new numbers, meaning the first 12 numbers are 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B 10. If people used the duodecimal system instead of the decimal system, perhaps future generations would also think the metric system rather strange.