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Measuring up in the USA Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

Are you soon planning to visit the USA? Perhaps you already live there, but don’t yet know how to talk about non-metric measurements in Esperanto. Well, believe it or not, sometimes the American customary units system is easier to use in practice. For example, if I’m riding in the car with someone heading to an Esperanto conference in America, I don’t tell the driver, “There’s 8 kilometers to our exit!” However, it can be fun to give metric measures to Americans in “inappropriate situations” to see the blank looks on their faces! Never forget The Onion, which reminds us that converting to the metric system starts with the individual. 🙂

Normally when you write or speak in Esperanto, you will want to use metric measurements, since the only countries not yet using metric are the United States, Liberia and Burma. Also, the United Kingdom officially uses metric, although there are still some cases where Brits still use the imperial system such as measuring body height and weight as well as distance and speed on the highway (ahem, motorway!).

In Esperanto, these units can sometimes be used in a literary manner to convey a local flavor to a text, but should almost always include the metric conversion in parenthesis behind it, such as “Mi mendis usonan pajnton (0,47 litrojn), ne britan pajnton (0,57 litrojn) da biero.” When translating English text to Esperanto, it’s even better to avoid using the units altogether if they’re not important. For example, Russ Williams convinced me to drop the units when translating the Esperanto subtitles for the board game documentary Going Cardboard in the following sentence (also note how we shortened the text to make it quicker to read):

English: About two weeks after I registered, I get an email message within the Geek from a local gamer, Mark Edwards, who ends up living two miles down the road from me.
Esperanto: Du semajnojn poste, mi ricevis retpoŝton en BGG de loka ludanto, Mark Edwards, kiu loĝas proksime de mi.

However, back to the USA, many people don’t realize that the metric system is really used there sometimes too! For example, there are two liter drink bottles, and nutritional information on food boxes is indicated in calories and grams. Also, all Americans calculate using the metric system studying science in school, such as in chemistry and physics classes. To learn more about other uses of the metric system there, I would highly recommend this incredibly detailed Wikipedia article: Metrication in the United States.

Finally, without further ado, here are some useful imperial Esperanto phrases:

[Remember that the Esperanto j is pronounced like the English consonant y.]

La grandeco de mia televidilo estas tridek du coloj.
My television is thirty-two inches large.

Mi altas kvin futojn.
I am five feet tall.

Usona piedpilka tereno havas cent jardojn.
An American football field has one hundred yards.

La terpeco de mia avino grandas dek sep akreojn.
My grandma’s land is seventeen acres large.

Kvin funtoj da terpomoj kostas 1,98 britajn pundojn.
Five pounds of potatoes cost 1.98 British Pounds.
(note that commas are typically used instead of periods to indicate decimals)

La distanco inter Novjorko kaj Losanĝeleso estas 2464 mejloj.
The distance between New York and Los Angeles is 2464 miles.

Iru aĉeti du galonojn da lakto.
Go buy two gallons of milk.

Ekstere estas malvarme: tridek gradoj farenhejtaj.
It is cold outside: thirty degrees Fahrenheit.

Estas dek ses uncoj en unu pajnto.
There are sixteen ounces in one pint.

Kiel mi povus rapide trovi tunon da tinusaĵo?
How could I quickly find a ton of tuna (food)?

So, now you’re ready for an epic Esperanto road trip across the United States. Bonan vojaĝon, y’all!

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.