Tag Archives: metric system

In defense of Fahrenheit

I am an American, and I am a firm believer in the metric system. I think it is inherently superior and more logical, plus all but 3 countries in the world have officially adopted it. Having lived abroad, I have been surrounded by meters and liters and kilograms. But there’s one dimension of it that I just can’t agree with.


I forced myself to become fluent in Celsius by switching my weather app and websites over. And like anything else, if you immerse yourself in it, you too can make it second nature. A climate-controlled room began to feel more like 22°C than 72°F. That doesn’t prove anything though.

Here are some of the bones I have to pick with centigrade:

Fahrenheit’s 0°–100° is more practical

Zero to one hundred is the most important segment, and should naturally be applied to the most useful range. Celsius fans boast that freezing is set at 0°C and boiling is set at 100°C, and so it’s obviously the best thing ever… and who has time to remember their oddball equivalents of 32°F and 212°F? But here’s the practicality test: how often do you actually discuss (or have to think about) the temperature of water boiling or freezing? Chances are it’s rare, unless you’re a scientist.

On the flipside, how often do you think/talk about the temperature of the air outside? You probably do this very often, perhaps daily. If you live in a temperate zone, like the majority of humans (and the overwhelming majority of people in industrialized nations), you experience a broad range of temperatures. A frigid winter’s night and a scorching summer’s day punch in around -15°C and 37°C, respectively. Translation: 0°F and 100°F. Now try to tell me those are hard numbers to work with.

The other, rather-practical instance of measuring temperature is when you want to see if someone is feverish. A centigrade fever? A clumsy 38°C and up. A Fahrenheit fever? Above the nice, round, 100°F mark.

Fahrenheit’s more granular

Fahrenheit degrees are smaller, which means they are more specific. Each 1 Celsius degree is equal to 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees.

Example how this might affect you: If your thermostat only has whole-degree settings on it, each Fahrenheit degree you adjust it is finer… 80% finer, to be precise. So Fahrenheit will let you get that much more exact about how you want your house to feel.

“Ah-hah,” you might be saying if you’re wrong Celsius-inclined, “but what if mine has half-degree increments?!” …it’s the same thing all over again. Good ole °F are more precise.

Fahrenheit’s a cooler name

Thirdly, “Fahrenheit” has a significantly cooler ring to it than does “Celcius” or “centigrade”. I can’t give an exact ratio, but I’m pretty sure it’s multiple orders of magnitude. I don’t think Ray Bradbury considered the title Celsius 233 seriously, just as Michael Moore would’ve pooh-poohed Celsius 488.3.


The way I see it, Fahrenheit is the victor.

In the end, though, the clearest loser of the contenders: the Rankine scale.

Image source: http://m.cdn.blog.hu/ju/juharizsuzsanna/image/2012-09/an_original_thermometer_invented_by_daniel_gabriel_fahrenheit_to__auction_zkauf.jpg