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  • Betrifft

    Fahrenheit or Celsius

    Is it true that Americans always use Fahrenheit when talking about the temperature? And what about the other natives not living in Europe?
    VerfasserMini cooper06 Jun. 06, 21:04
    First question: Yes. They tend to believe that the metric system is something for rocket scientists. One exception is the CNN who has gone metric from the beginning, I suppose.

    Second question: What "other natives" do you have in mind?
    #1VerfasserAndreasS06 Jun. 06, 21:14
    Always? No. Often? Yes.
    #2Verfassergirly-girl<us>06 Jun. 06, 21:19
    @AndreaS - Darn it. Did I out myself as a rocket scientist again? I almost never wear my shirt "Actually, I am a rocket scientist", and yet over and over people recognize me as one ...
    #3Verfassergirly-girl06 Jun. 06, 21:20
    Excerpt from Wikipedia article below:

    In Jamaica and the United States, where metrication has encountered resistance from industry and consumers, the Fahrenheit system continues to be very widely used. In the United Kingdom Celsius has been widely adopted, although Fahrenheit is still rarely used by older generations (50 years old and over) for measurement of higher temperatures, lower temperatures are measured in degrees Celsius. The majority of the population in the UK and in most other countries have adopted Celsius as the primary scale in use.

    Interestingly it was proposed by a German Scientist, Gabriel Fahrenheit, but the Germans have abandoned it.

    Here is a Wikipedia link:

    interesting excerpt:

    The Fahrenheit scale was the primary temperature standard for climatic, industrial and medical purposes in most English-speaking countries until the 1960s. In the late 1960s and 1970s the Celsius (formerly centigrade) scale was phased-in by governments as part of the standardizing process of metrication.

    Fahrenheit supporters claim its previous popularity was due to Fahrenheit's user-friendliness. The unit of measure, being only 5/9 the size of the Celsius degree, permits more precise communication of measurements without resorting to fractional degrees. Also, the ambient air temperature in most inhabited regions of the world tends not to go far beyond the range of 0 °F to 100 °F: therefore, the Fahrenheit scale would reflect the perceived ambient temperatures, following 10-degree bands that emerge in the Fahrenheit system:
    #4VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 21:23
    In NZ the metric system was introduced in about 1974, and unlike in England, it is actually used consistently. No one uses the old imperial system anymore except stubborn members of the older generation (like my mother). But even she won't insist on buying a yard of fabric or 2 pounds of potatoes when she knows that these things are sold in metres and kilos (kilograms), respectively. (unlike in England, where fabric is still sold in yards - at least in some shops. Note that a yard is less than a metre - only about 90cm - thus a good rip-off ploy.)
    Fahrenheit also used to be used (until about 1974) then the 100° day became a 40° day. I and my classmates weren't taught the old Fahrenheit system either, because the teachers knew that the metric system was going to be introduced soon, and didn't want to confuse us.
    Although our old oven used to have Fahrenheit temperatures - that was the last part to die out.
    #5VerfasserMary (nz/A)06 Jun. 06, 21:25
    thanks all of you. More comments still welcome from other natives - of English-speaking countries is what I meant. :-)
    #6VerfasserMini cooper06 Jun. 06, 21:27
    In the 70's, they tried to gradually phase in metric by teaching both the old system and metric. I think teaching of both persists, but as long as they continue to teach both and everything is labeled as both I don't think metric will catch on. Your parents and grandparents do not know metric so they maintain speaking in the old terms, so even if you learn both in school the non-metric system of temperatures, weights and measures are emphasized and engrained.

    Some people know Celsius or can convert Fahrenheit to Celsius but I would say the average person only has a feel for the meaning in Fahrenheit. I would say I almost always have to convert temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit to know what to wear or have an idea about the temperature being mentioned.
    #7VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 21:28
    Generally speaking, yes, perfectly true.

    If you get any NPR news, you'll probably hear them using Fahrenheit talking about things like the hurricane season, global warming, summer brush fires, heat waves, and so on. (Do you happen to live near Berlin? I heard them announce a new affiliate station there -- lucky you, I wish we could get BBC or Deutsche Welle or something actually over the air.)

    You do occasionally see alternate readings given in centigrade, like on outdoor signs at banks that flash first one, then the other, but I think it's mainly because it's just easy for digital thermometers to do that automatically, not because any of us really pay any attention to it. Though it's undoubtedly handy for visitors from other countries. (-:

    I'm trying to remember which system they use on the Spanish-language news, like the local Univisión or Telemundo channel; I think it's Fahrenheit too, but I'd have to check to be sure.

    We also use feet, inches, miles, pounds, and ounces (though not stones). In the past, the metric system has inspired some rather heated discussions in the forum, which are all presumably still in the archive and probably don't need to be warmed up again regardless of how we measure their temperature. (-;
    #8Verfasserhm -- us06 Jun. 06, 21:30
    engrained probably should have been ingrained.
    #9VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 21:33
    So Becky, perhaps that was why it worked in NZ - because they stopped teaching the old system. Maybe it was an order from the Education Department, and not the idea of the teachers.
    #10VerfasserMary (nz/A)06 Jun. 06, 21:34
    Gosh, 7 posts while I was still typing.

    @AndreasS: Come on, don't be so snide. We don't think it's for rocket scientists; we all learned it in science class. We just don't want to have to use it.

    It's a cultural thing -- units are like a kind of language. Having to use metric feels foreign to us, like having words from another language substituted for our own words. Maybe not unlike the feeling many German speakers get when people use too many English words in German. (-:
    #11Verfasserhm -- us06 Jun. 06, 21:35
    @hm - us: That is still the way my mother feels. If I say "This table is 70 cm wide" for example, she will reply: "What's that in English?"

    But I have no feel for Fahrenheit temperatures (except for baking), weight in pounds, gallons, yards, etc. as I was about 8 years old when they got rid of it and introduced Celsius/metric. (Though I seem to remember my mother telling the doctor I had a temperature of 102° when I was very little - can that be right?)
    #12VerfasserMary (nz/A)06 Jun. 06, 21:42
    hm -- us. I get NPR in Bonn and a radius of about 10km. In fact I'm an addict. I listen to everything, Dr Laura (!), Car Talk (my absolute favourite) , In Our Time, Paul Harvey, lots of comediens I don't understand, even American Country Countdown, although I hate it.

    NPR always uses Fahrenheit. I have no TV so don't know what they say on CNN. You know you can listen to all the BBC channels on the internet?
    #13VerfasserMini cooper06 Jun. 06, 21:44
    I remember a contribution from Amy-MiMi where she said that between something like second and fourth grade she moved and had to change schools. Her first school taught metric and then the standard American measurements and the second school taught them in reverse order. She was the only one her class able to identify weights and lengths in metric but could not do the same in standard measurements. Which just points to what you are taught and learn be comes naturall. Of course, she admits she had to learn standard American measurements, but I suspect that she is more "bilingual" than rest of us in Celsius and meters and kilograms.
    #14VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 21:47
    It was Jimmy Carter, I believe, that tried to talk some sense into us, telling us it was the modern and sensible thing to do. Well, it didn't work. Most Americans today loathe the thought of anything to do with "meters" and Latin prefixes. They think it's for scientists in white lab coats or it's a "European thing".
    #15Verfasserwpr06 Jun. 06, 21:50
    Mary(n/z) - A fever of 102 F is very high, but quite possible that that is what the doctor told your mom. What is quoted as the normal body temperature is 98.6, although, everyone/anyone could have a higher or lower normal body temperature. Medically, 98.6 is consider the normal body temperature and anything higher than say about 99 would be consider a fever. 99 would be considered a slight fever.
    #16VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 21:53
    Waaaait a minute, Dr. Laura (shudder) is _not_ NPR. You must get either more than one station, or a station that carries a little bit of everything, right across the political spectrum. Dr. Laura is fairly far right, and Paul Harvey (is he even still alive or are those reruns?) and country music are generally also on conservative stations. NPR is more center-left. You can get more of it online too. (-:

    Thanks for the suggestion, but internet radio doesn't work all that reliably with a dial-up modem, and many sites seem to require RealPlayer, which I dislike because it's so intrusive. I do sometimes listen to German radio online, but it would be nice to be able to listen in different rooms or in the car or whatever.

    I don't have cable, but I see CNN occasionally elsewhere and I don't remember their ever using Celsius. I would be very surprised if that was American CNN. They do provide different programming for different regions; maybe you guys are getting CNN International, at least for the weather part.
    #17Verfasserhm -- us06 Jun. 06, 21:58
    hm -- us. Your comments to Dr Laura (shudder) made me laugh out loud. I don't know why I'm addicted to her. I usually hear her at 7 pm our time (and it is NPR - but I expect it's something to do with the Forces because sometimes it's AFN on the same wavelength). Anyway, I often listen with my teenage daughter, who has fits and I'm sometimes in danger of driving the car off the road. It's a bit like watching a horror movie. You know you shouldn't but you can't stop.

    Paul Harvey is worse, if you ask me. I can never listen to the whole of one of his programmes. Then there's a guy who reads from the newspapers, every morning at about 8.20 our time. He always sounds as if he's learning to read. "This is about .... a man .... a mannnn ... in Dakota who saw a rattle snake ... a rattle snake .... in his closet. ..."
    American Country Countdown is abysmal.

    Now, go do the right thing!
    #18VerfasserMini cooper06 Jun. 06, 22:12
    @Mary: To the origin of body temperature=98.6 deg Fahrenheit:

    When Fahrenheit invented his temperature scale he decided one winter morning, that it couldn't get any colder and set this temperature to 0. Then he put the thermometer in his armpit and defined the human body temperature to 100. Since it was really cold, really winter and since he probably had a slight cold, the human body temperature is since then at 98.6 deg Fahrenheit.

    Slightly polemic, but one of my favourite stories when I want to tease US-Americans with their temperature scale. :)))
    #19VerfasserHein -de-06 Jun. 06, 22:29
    hein -de-, just remember that was your countryman that came up with that scale we are just using it. You should be thanking us for perpetuating German scientific discoveries/inovations, since you are willing to let this fade into history. *gg*
    #20VerfasserBecky (US)06 Jun. 06, 22:37
    Hi, folks ! - May I try to enlighten you on temperature-scales
    (and possibly reconcile our AE/BE-friends with good old Celsius ?)
    Well, all of those scientists (Fahrenheit, Celsius, Reaumur) being concerned about how to best measure temperatures, did (basically) the same thing:
    They took a medium (a liquid) and exposed it to low and to high temperatures.
    They declared the point of freezing (of their respective) medium as 0° (Zero Degree) on their scale and the point of boiling (of their respective medium) as 100° (One-hundred degree).
    However, only Celsius used water as a medium (Fahrenheit employed something like 'Weingeist') . . .
    When these scales were compared to each other, it was found, that Fahrenheit's scale already indicated +32° (plus 32 degrees) at the point, where the scale of Celsius (and that of Reaumur) showed 0° (Zero degree)
    At the high end, Fahrenheit's scale indicated 212° (two-hundred-and-twelve degree) when water boiled (while Reaumur's scale showed 80°).
    Compared to the scale of Celsius, this meant, that there was (is!) an offset of +32°F as compared to Celsius and that Fahrenheit's scale uses 180 subdivisions (212° - 32°) between the freezing- and the boiling-point of water.

    Well, hence the formula to translate °Fahrenheit into °Celsius:
    Subtract 32° and divide by 1.8 (or 18/10 [or 9/5])

    Translate °Celsius into °Fahrenheit:
    Multiply [°C] by 1.8 (or 18/10 [or 9/5]) and add 32°

    Mary had a temperature of 102°F:
    102°F - 32° = 70°. - Divide by 1.8 (i.e. 9/5) = 38.9°C (pretty high)

    The other way around:
    38.9°C: Multiply by 1.8 (i.e. 9/5) => 70°. -> Plus 32° (offset) => 102° F

    #21VerfasserDaddy 06 Jun. 06, 23:03
    Daddy, but if you always convert, you will never get a "feel" for the scale itself. It really is a lot like learning a foreign language. If you always just translate, you will never be able to think in another language. I learned the metric temperature rather quickly like this:

    0° = there's frost outside.
    10° = it's chilly
    20° = nice room temperature :-)
    30° = it's hot outside
    40° = it's hot as hell outside
    The rest you can pick up along the way.

    Not very mathematical, but it works.
    #22Verfasserwpr06 Jun. 06, 23:21
    hm -- us:
    Hope you didn't take it as an insult. I owe this thing about "rocket scientists" to a former good friend of mine, Manfred Krifka.

    That's a nice article to read, anyway. Krifka taught linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin for appr. 10 years, so he seems to knows something about how the US tick/ticks.

    I thought CNN is metric as their contribution to world unity, but it's well possible that this holds for CNN Int'l only.

    But I take it as a positive sign that the USA is able and willing to send a soccer team to the world cup tournament. They just arrived in Hamburg today.
    #23VerfasserAndreasS06 Jun. 06, 23:29
    Sorry. They came 5 days ago on June 2.
    #24VerfasserAndreasS06 Jun. 06, 23:32
    @ wpr: No, no ! I (almost) never convert, as I feel 'at home' with °C. -
    Your little table, however, makes me believe that you are AE (you forgot the °C)
    #25VerfasserDaddy 06 Jun. 06, 23:37
    hm--us is correct: Spanish-language radio in the U.S. gives temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit (and distances in miles, and weight in pounds, etc. -- the whole ball of wax.)
    #26VerfasserMartin --cal07 Jun. 06, 00:34
    Hi Daddy: Du liegst ein wenig falsch mit deiner Fahrenheit-Historie (wobei ich zugebe, die lustigste gewaehlt zu haben). Im Gegensatz zu Celsius nahm er NICHT Gefrier- und Siedepunkt einer Fluessigkeit. Der Weingeist, den du erwaehnst, war seine erste Thermometerfluessigkeit, die spaeter von ihm durch Quecksilber ersetzt wurde. Die Geschichten gehen ein wenig auseinander, woher sein Nullpunkt kommt. Einige sagen, er nahm den kaeltesten Winter und es gelang ihm spaeter diesen Nullpunkt mit einer Eis/Salzmischung zu reproduzieren. Andere behaupten, er nahm die tiefste Temperatur, die er im Labor herstellen konnte (was ich ein wenig bezweifele). Die englische Wikipedia gibt einen netten Ueberblick auch ueber einige mehr haarstraeubende Varianten.

    @ Becky (US): Ja, aber warum muesst ihr uns immer die duemmsten Dinge nachmachen? Fahrenheit-Skala und Nenas "99 red balloons"... ich bin ja froh, dass ihr nie Modern Talking entdeckt habt! ;))))))
    #27VerfasserHein -de-07 Jun. 06, 01:05
    @Hein -de-: The Fahrenheit scale is not such a bad idea. If you look at the range of temperatures, most places in the world will have temperatures between 0 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Wikipedia article speaks about this and that there is not a need to have fractional degrees or utilize negative temperatures to report the weather in most areas of the world. There are many other things we have adopted from Germany other than the temperature scale and questionable pop music. Need I remind you Bach and Beethoven are still performed and enjoyed by many Americans. Should we scrap Bach and Beethoven because it is old and there is newer music being created today. Werhner von Braun was not too bad of an immigrant for us and could be attributed with the reason why an American walked on the moon. So, we are not adverse to new ideas, ones you might even say are out of this world.;-)

    If you are not grounded and do not have roots, you are not able to grow and reach new heights because any wind can come along and knock you over. With deep enough roots, you can sway in the wind and survive in the strongest of storms.;-)

    #28VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 05:01
    Hi Becky! I really hope, you didn't take my really ironic (ok, a bit teasing/self-teasing) comments too serious. :)

    The principal idea of Fahrenheit to avoid negative temperatures is not a bad one (although I like the diffentiation between above and below freezing of the Celsius scale). Its history just offends me from an aesthetic/scientific point of view:

    Imagine Celsius explaining an Indian colleague his scale on the phone: "You just take water at its freezing point at 0 and at the boiling point at 100. Here it is now 5 deg." Easy for the Indian guy to reproduce the scale and to decide that it is f*** cold in Sweden.

    Imagine the same story with Fahrenheit: "Just wait until it doesn't get any colder and set this to 0." And then the idea to take the human body temperature as a fixed point, when it wasn't even sure that human body temperature is the same for every race/region off the world.

    PS: Don't know, why I slipped into English here, sorry.
    #29VerfasserHein -de-07 Jun. 06, 05:24
    #30VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 05:58
    *Help, I am in spam filter hell. I will try this for the umpteenth time*

    #31VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 05:59
    Hi Hein -de-! Actually, I appreciate the English.
    #32VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 06:00
    @Hein - I had a good response but LEO does not like me.:-((((((
    #33VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 06:07
    perhaps fahrenheit is so popular cos it sounds like more...

    does anyone still use Réaumur? in some long forgotten lab perhaps?
    #34Verfassernoli07 Jun. 06, 06:13
    Wer öfter mal was umrechnen muss:


    #35VerfasserEberhard07 Jun. 06, 07:20
    @ noli: Perhaps some French people still do . . .

    @ All: And don't you forget °Kelvin [°K ], will you ?!?

    { 0° K = -273.15 °C )

    0°K is 'Absolute Zero' (nothing less possible)

    #36VerfasserDaddy 07 Jun. 06, 20:19
    @ Daddy: Kelvin is never used with the °. It is just K. 0 K, 100 K, whatever :-)

    #37VerfasserPhysicist07 Jun. 06, 20:36
    @ Physisist: Thank you for pointing this out. - I guess this dates me as being from the pre-67th . . .
    #38VerfasserDaddy 07 Jun. 06, 20:46
    @ Daddy: On a physical timescale that is not even a microsecond... :-)
    #39Verfasserphysicist07 Jun. 06, 21:24
    @ physicist: May be, but counting my years in binary, its a million . . .
    #40VerfasserDaddy 07 Jun. 06, 21:28
    @Becky: Wernher von Braun ist ein gutes Beispiel dafür, dass "Eure" Qualitätskontrolle oft nicht funktioniert, wenn "Ihr" aus Germany importiert (musste es denn ausgerechnet ein alter Nazi sein?) -- Liebfrauenmilch, (beer) steins, cuckoo clocks und Fahrenheit sind weitere schlagende Argumente ;-))
    #41VerfasserMerl07 Jun. 06, 22:07
    @Merl & Hein -de-: Unfortunately last night my rebuttal to Hein's self-deprecating humor was not acceptable to LEO and its new spam filter. I will see if I can attempt it again. I have forgotten some of my thoughts which were so brilliantly written this morning involving wonderful phrases like the flotsam and jetsam of scientific research are not the only things we have adopted. I understood he was being self-deprecating since others were following along I had to mention other less dubious infusions of German ideas and culture found in America. And of course, he still gave a gentle nudge in the ribs with a laugh, so I needed to remind you that sometimes with the trash you can find some gems mixed in. Therefore, be careful what you put in the trashcan.;-)))
    #42VerfasserBecky (US)07 Jun. 06, 22:39
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