WQPH Correction I Sent And Reply From Lowell Sun
Tue Oct 25 13:50:38 EDT 2011
You may think that the metric system is universal and is therefore
universally understood. If that's what you think, you are living in a
dream world. Among the more confusing aspects of metric terminology
are the three similar sounding (and similar looking) prefixes that
have very different meanings: mu (Greek letter that is pronounced mew
and is shorthand for micro) representing 10e-6 (a multiplier of
1/1,000,000 or one millionth), lower-case m (for milli), representing
10e-3 (a multiplier of 1/1,000 or one thousandth), and upper-case M
(for Mega), representing 10e6 (a multiplier of 1,000,000 or one
million). IOW, the flavor of the letter M (mu, lower-case m, or
upper-case M) changes the meaning by a factor of 10e12 (a trillion to
one) with a stop at 1000 times the smallest prefix, which is a
billionth of the largest prefix.
When you work with this stuff every day, you internalize it. But if
you've never been exposed to it, it is incredibly confusing! If you
want to be understood when you talk, you can't refer to emmwatts; you
have to refer to muwatts or microwatts and either milliwatts or
Megawatts. BTW, this confusion is compounded by the lack of the mu
character on standard ASCII keyboards.
A year or more ago, I had to write to Walt Mossberg, the Wall St
Journal's consumer-electronics guru in whose column I found lower-case
m representing the Mega prefix. Of course, my letter had no effect.
Lower-case m for Mega, a violation of standard metric terminology, is
in the Dow Jones style guide, the bible on these things for people
writing about electronics in the Wall St Journal and Barron's. If Dow
Jones gets it wrong (and institutionalizes the error), how can we
expect a lowly freelancer for the Lowell Sun to get it right? Heck,
how can we expect an executive editor or managing editor at the Sun to
get it right?
Dan Strassberg (email@example.com)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Garrett Wollman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Dan.Strassberg" <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 11:47 AM
Subject: Re: WQPH Correction I Sent And Reply From Lowell Sun
> <<On Tue, 25 Oct 2011 08:44:28 -0400, "Dan.Strassberg"
> <firstname.lastname@example.org> said:
>> Every field has its own lexicon; the polyglot of "members-only"
>> languages seems to fulfill a human need to be members of a group
>> which non-members are excluded.
> However, the metric system is not one of those things.
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