What is the most British thing ever?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 17, 2020 05:01 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 17, 2020 05:01 AM

They don’t look much like castle remains, right? Not water towers, nor prisons…

These are called “folly towers” and there are hundreds of them scattered around British Isles. They serve absolutely no purpose. Maybe ornamentation. Then why built in the middle of nowhere… Probably just in the pursuit of utter pointlessness.

Very Monty Python-ish, huh?

images: visitcumbria.com, trigpointing.uk, atlasobscura.com.

2. Another very British thing, with some help from Robert Craig.

That awesome idiosyncratic currency that was used prior to 15 February 1971:

Four farthings = one penny
Twelve pence = one shilling
Two shillings = one florin
Five shillings = one crown
Twenty shillings = one pound
The coins and notes include the thrupenny bit, the ha’penny, the sixpence, the two bob bit, the half crown, the ten bob note and so on. But I feel the need to make way for my favourite:
One guinea which is equal to 21 shillings. Note how it is 1/20 more valuable than one pound. It is not issued, but a denomination used mostly in contracts involving land or animals and that cornerstone of British society, horse-racing.
3. Measuring the world in a British sense (credits to David Minott, Donald Halls and Tony Vincent). You fellow SI units folks don’t understand those inches, miles, acres, gallons, pounds and other ungodly imperial units, right? Have a look at these:

The volume unit the firkin is one quarter of a beer barrel. And one firkin is 72 pints. Now, if it’s wine that you are holding, stop before boasting to your friends with that new knowledge, because the wine firkin is a different unit. And some other volume units are the tun, the butt, the kildirkin and the bloody hogshead!
Length. You might guess that it should be easier to measure than volume. But we are talking about British, don’t fool yourselves… A unit they have seen suitable for this is furlong, which was defined as the distance a team of oxen could plough without resting. Yeah, great. Later it was standardised as 220 yards. And it is still used in, you guessed it: horse-racing;)
Ask a British person about his/her weight and you will hear something like “13 stone”. Wait, what’s wrong with pounds? Because it would not sharpen your maths. Designating 14 pounds as 1 stone would do it. Heaven help foreign doctors in the UK…
Also, there’s the ounce. And when you think you learned enough weight units, comes a hundredweight. Finally, something in decimal fashion! Over my dead body, you bloody continental. One hundred weight is 112 pounds. On this island, we multiply by anything but 10.
On with the human body: shoe size. I’m sure everyone has seen things like “size 9″ on shoe tags next to your 44. These are UK and US shoe sizes which rely on a unit called the barleycorn, which is 1/3 of an inch (one inch was originally defined as “3 dry barley corns”) The largest shoe size is taken as twelve inches (a size 12) i.e. 30.5 cm, and smaller sizes are derived by counting backwards in barleycorn units, so a size 11 is 11.67 inches or 29.6 cm.

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