There’s a story on the BBC website today (7 Mar 14) exploring some of the causes of the severe flooding experienced across England and Wales this winter. In the midst of the story is a classic example of the media’s obsession for converting measurements into ridiculous equivalents, presumably in line with their relentless ‘dumbing down’ approaches to communication. I quote “By the time the restoration of the catchment is completed, the moor will be able to hold the equivalent of 104 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.” Right, who knows the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool?
So, the Olympic-sized swimming pool has now become a standard measurement unit, and takes its place proudly alongside the versatile double decker bus. As we all know, the double decker bus serves as both a measure of length and height (or depth); moderate distances can therefore be measured in double decker buses, as indeed can moderate heights. For slightly longer distances, the football field comes into its own, but of course the football field can also double up as a measure of area. So in order to get a better perspective of the BBC story, perhaps the reporter could have given us an indication of the area of the moor (in the equivalent number of football fields) to which the 104 Olympic-sized swimming pools would provide catchment. But since I don’t know the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, it would have been helpful if its length and depth could have been provided in the equivalent number of double decker buses. It would have all made sense then.
This reminds me of a lady I know rather well whose remarkable contributions to the culinary arts are based on units of measurement such as lumps, splodges and dollops. Then of course, when I was at college, there was the BSH………!