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09/13/2003

Inventing Common Names for 30 and 10 Centimetres.

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  Problem to be solved - we need common names in the English vernacular for the distances 30 cm and 10 cm.
  The old imperial system of distance measurements included the yard and the foot. These corresponded well to the kinds of everyday distances that we often need to measure and describe. So yard and foot were popular and widely used units of measure and words in the English vernacular.
  Now in the metric system of distance measurements, the metre (meter in USA) corresponds closely to the yard, so it too has been easily accepted into the English vernacular and is a widely used unit of measurement in our everyday lives. But there is no metric unit corresponding closely to the foot (a foot is about 30.5 cm long). So we don't have a simple metric word for a length similar to a foot. Can we invent such a word for a length of 30 cm?
  And while we are at it, can we invent a common word for "10 centimetres", because that is another easily visualised and useful length we need a common word for. Ten centimetres is one decimetre in the metric system, but the word decimetre is too long it seems to catch on as a common word.
  Here are my suggestions. For 30 centimetres - either a "ruler" - because 30 cm is the length of your common or garden ruler and most people can easily visualise its length, or a "threedec" - standing for 3 decimetres. Although threedec looks a bit long it is easy to say (it takes only about as long to say as foot) and it has the advantage of being a shorthand form of the words for the actual metric distance of 30 centimetres.
  And my suggestion for "ten centimetres" is either a "palm" (the human palm is very approximately ten centimetres across), or a "onedec" standing for one decimetre - again it is easy to say and it is a shorthand form of the metric words "one decimetre".
  I would be very interested to hear what other suggestions you may have, and also whether you know of any attempts in the past to give single-word names to the distances 30 cm and 10 cm.
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