Saturday, January 22, 2022

Still Life with Robin: Call It Zero When It's Freezing!

by Peggy Robin

If you had checked your outdoor thermometer this afternoon, you would have found it right around the freezing mark.  

Right now it's -2.2 degrees out. Do you doubt me when I claim it's that cold? That's probably because you are thinking in degrees Fahrenheit, when I'm speaking in Celsius. During this recent cold snap, I've been focused on the temperature more than usual. And I've been thinking it's about time the US joined the rest of the world*, where 0 is the temperature at which water freezes, and 100 is the boiling point. It's simple, efficient, eminently logical -- and once you get used to the scale, you wonder why anyone would argue to keep that ungainly 32 freezing point, and the even more awkward 212 boiling point. 

But where Fahrenheit really gets crazy is when it measures human temperature. 98.6? It's not even a whole number! What's that point-six worth, anyway? If your temperature is between 98 and 99 you're perfectly normal. Those tenths of a degree in Fahrenheit shouldn't count. On the Celsius scale, there's almost double the space between degrees. You're know you're normal around 37 - and so if you are a full degree higher, 38, yes, you've definitely got a fever (it's 100.4 for all who are stuck in a Fahrenheit world).

Of course, I don't expect that my three cheers for Celsius will make the slightest dent in the American preference for Fahrenheit. Unless you've spent time abroad, you are probably quite comfortable with the Fahrenheit scale and see no reason to change. All past movements to switch us over have met with stiff resistance -- from the business community, from consumers, and from many members of Congress who consider it a point of national pride NOT to adopt a "foreign" system. I'm well aware that it's a quixotic quest. 

Still, on a night like this, with the temperature dipping into the teens on the Fahrenheit scale, I just want to point out how much more satisfying it would be to say, "It's MINUS TWO" out there! Now THAT'S COLD!

* Except for two other countries, Myanmar and Liberia, keeping us company in our non-metric way of life! For more on US resistance to metric measurements, see 


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

1 comment:

  1. Amen!! Our family lived abroad for 8 years and Celsius is the way to go!