1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Question for English speakers in metric system countries.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Oct 13, 2016.

    This may be a really silly question.
    Are these types of expressions used in your common speech or are they somehow converted to metric?


    He returned to caressing her calf, kneading gently as he inched his way to the back of her knee.

    She was far more athletic than he imagined. Every inch of her spoke of years of intensive training and discipline.

    I'm guessing the first example is fine but the second I'm really unsure.
     
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  2. MusingWordsmith
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    MusingWordsmith Member

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    I'm a native English speaker and yeah, that's part of my common speak. I'm also American, who doesn't use metric in common measurement either. Now I'm curious what a Brit has to say about this. . .
     
  3. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    As a native American-English speaker, the second example is a very common phrase & not strange at all.

    Now, in my very subjective opinion, it is such a common phrase that it doesn't feel particularly interesting or powerful sentence when in writing. It no longer summons the same connotation originally elicited before the phrase became so mundane & throw-away. It's so familiar my brain no longer really considers it. "Every inch of her" is like getting a PB&J sanwhich I already eat every day for lunch; I swallow it almost without tasting. When I get chawanmushi, I relish each bite & let the taste flood my mouth. And it's not like chawanmushi is particularly more special than peanut butter & jelly, or that one can't sincerely enjoy or relish the latter's flavour; it's simply it's so common & casual that it loses its impact.

    It can be made more meaningful if you are using various units of measurement throughout the narration around it, if it's somehow symbolic or indicative of something more, perhaps.

    But in general, it feels simply like a filler phrase.

    This is just my opinion though
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I just cannot see anyone, regardless of the measuring system used in their respective country, saying "... as he centimetered his way to the back of the knee." o_O

    I too am a Yank, so I probably shouldn't even be in this thread, but I would hazard that both uses you give are figurative and would probably remain in inches. We did get our measuring system from the Brits*, after all.... :whistle:

    * We get made fun of for not using the U in honor because "it's not the 'real' British spelling", and we get made fun of for using the Imperial system of measurements, which is most assuredly of good English stock. Damned if we do; damned if we don't. Seems to me it's just resentment over that tea party in Boston....
     
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  5. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Muhahaha! To make things as awkward for people as possible, we use both!

    Anyway, those are fine.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And if anyone is curious - since the respondent did not give his/her bona fides - s/he hails from the midlands of England. ;)
     
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  7. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's just a British thing. Long distances and heights in imperial. Short distances in metric. The others vary massively.
     
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  8. NoGoodNobu
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    NoGoodNobu Senior Member

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    I just realized I didn't even grasp this question. My answer feels stupid.

    I apologize. I haven't slept in days, and I seem to be extremely impaired in comprehension

    I should probably forego posting for a while until I'm functional again

    _| ̄|○
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Understood. Same applies where I live. We are culturally pulled in two directions, USA vs. Latinoamerica. Milk in gallons, gas in liters, speed limits in miles per hour, road signage showing distance to next exit/town in kilometers. Joy. o_O
     
  10. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    We use 'inched', but we also use inches. I think you need Australia or Canada. They're probably civilised enough to not use batshit insane measuring systems.
     
  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Well ... To give this all a little more perspective. The characters in question have never lived on Earth and wouldn't bother to visit such a stodgy old society.
    This is far flung future above another planet. Since I refuse to use miles, feet & inches in any future sci-fi stories, I wasn't sure if it would seem odd to refer to inches in any form.
     
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  12. MusingWordsmith
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    MusingWordsmith Member

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    In that case, I would actually suggest not to use inch(es). Perhaps you could swap out some sort of made up equivalent-ish measurement in exchange? I'd say that in your examples it'd still be understood, especially if you establish the word earlier in your book.
     
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  13. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a writer, I think I'd try to avoid it. It'd feel weird putting it on the page. As a reader, I'm honestly not sure if I'd notice. 'Inched' is such a common expression I think I'd get the meaning without clocking the word was out of context.
     
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  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think you overestimate just how much such terms would change in figurative usage. We use words every day that have their roots in some really old dirt. We use terms that have fossilized into pat phrases, with all other use of the given word long gone and the intuitive meaning disappeared.

    Have a gander. ;) (Gander.... see what I did there?)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_word
     
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  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    UK translation:

    He returned to caressing her calf, kneaded gently as he imagined the back of her knees. She was far from athletic, and quite as he imagined. Every pound of her spoke of years of intensive training and discipline with her face in a burger.

    She was perfect.

    Yet at the very moment of consummation, smoke alarms rang throughout the house. Giles leaped from the lady's naked knees, and he hurried - away from the sitting room encounter, across to the hob where two fajitas sizzled as a sunset at the seaside, somewhere exotic, somewhere hot.

    fugit
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Everyone has standard units, right? They may vary from place to place. A mile is a standard unit in the U.S., a kilometer elsewhere. There's a clear solution, if that's true:

    "...he standard united his way to the back of her knee."

    "Every standard unit of her spoke of years of intensive training..."

    You're covered no matter who reads it.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Can we place a little accent mark over the U (you know how I loooove those pesky accent marks in English) so that we don't pronounce that word like Manchester United. ;)
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm Canadian - metric is our official measurement system, but we still informally use a lot of imperial.

    "Inched" as a verb wouldn't be an issue at all, but I think the later "inch", in a society that had fully adopted metric, wouldn't make much sense. It would be fine in Canada, but as I said, we haven't really made the switch yet in casual speech.
     
  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    What country would that be - English-speaking, and [culturally] fully metric?

    ...

    The only draw-back perhaps is that 'inch/inched' dates the writer..? Critics one hundred years hence might refer to @doggiedude's 'archaic prose style.'
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Perfect :D
     
  21. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I'm an English speaker from a well-and-truly metric country. The only things I can think of that anyone would use a non-metric unit for are people's heights (feet and inches -- but only in informal settings; a doctor would measure in centimetres) and babies' weights (again, informally). I have no explanation for why those exceptions exist, but overall (and particularly as a scientitian) I'm happy with the situation.

    People are still happy to use imperial (or whatever other) measurements in figurative speech, so the first example is fine (I reckon inch is a verb in its own right, even if it arose from the measurement). The second example would be perfectly well understood -- people know what an inch is, aren't xenophobic enough to be thrown by the mention of it, and I suspect the majority might preferentially use inch over centimetre in figurative speech (possibly it even highlights that it's figurative vs literal, as we'd use metric for literal?).

    After brief reflection, I think imperial measurements used in figurative speech are limited to lengths/distances. I'd definitely say, 'The next town is miles away', but I don't think anyone would say, 'I need to lose a few pounds'; we'd say 'kilos'. I can't think of anything other than miles, feet and inches that would come up figuratively. Possibly gallons, but I can't remember the last time anyone figuratively referred to a volume, and I'd probably go with litres. Feel free to run some other ones by me if you like :) Imperial measurements don't naturally spring to my mind, so it's possible I'm forgetting some obvious ones.
     
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  22. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    'I need to lose a few kilos' said @Si, clutching at his belly.

    'Kilos?'

    'Hark at Doris, pass me the Slimming World, chaps, I need recipes,' said Mike from under his hard hat.

    ...

    Maybe, you're talking from a Republic perspective?
     
  23. Pauline
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    Australian here, so definitely metric. But we do speak in inches and feet etc. Baby's are usually announced in pounds and ounces still. My father in law, he's in his eighties, recently told me something was a metre and four inches long.
     
  24. amerrigan
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    Australian too.

    I think the point is, that for the two examples given:

    "He returned to caressing her calf, kneading gently as he inched his way to the back of her knee."

    "She was far more athletic than he imagined. Every inch of her spoke of years of intensive training and discipline."

    Regardless of the fact that we use cm in our everyday use, we still use these too sayings, always. We don't replace them with cm versions.
     
  25. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I suddenly have the urge to make a peanut butter, jelly, and chawanmushi sandwich. No ebi though, that would be too crunchy. :)
     

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