This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In reply (page 255) the editor evades my question and flies wildly off to advocate the decimal system of weights and measures, the wisdom of which I had not questioned. Then he expressed surprise, that 49,000,000 people have got no further towards decimal measures than their great grandfathers. Then returning to the " unknown tongue," he gives the meaning of these French words but not the pronunciation. If 3,000,000 people read this article and thus become versed in French decimals, there will still remain 48 000,000 unread Americans.
Then he wishes to "convert the master of the National Grange." The National Grange some years ago put the prefix "past" to my title. I immediately "converted" and decided thenceforth to use the "immeasurably superior" French decimal system. I called a fair sample of the 49,000,000 whom I had employed to chop cord-wood. I told him to go to the hardware store and get a duokilogramme axe with a unimetre Caryatomentosa helve, then go to the timber lot and cut a hectimetre of populustremuloides and Quercusmaerocarpa. I suggested that he take along a couple of litres of aqua pura.
The look of bewilderment and consternation on the man's face was indescribable. I could not determine whether he considered me most lunatic or idiot. At length, however, he managed to tell me in very simple English that he did not comprehend my meaning. I think he said "what?"
Fortified by the example of the Gardener's Monthly I promptly replied that I was surprised that he didn't know any more than his greatgrandfather, and then taking the advice of the G. M., I commenced a "lecture" on the "un-measurably superior" French decimal system. I told him the meaning of Ki-Iog'-ram-me' and hec-tol'-i-tre'. If he follows my pronunciation in the presence of such scientists as Sullivan and Tug Wilson, I tremble for his "potato trap" - scientific term for mouth.
I wound up with the standard knockdown scientific argument about the vagueness of common English names for trees and flowers and showed him the confusion, uncertainty and danger of telling him to chop a burr oak instead of Quercusmaerocarpa. I flatter myself, I left a good impression on his mind, similar to that of a good Scotch lady who said the new preacher was a wonderful learned man - why " bless you I couldn't understand a word he said".
Now, returning to our grandfathers, the plain facts are that when they wisely decided on the decimal system for recoining money, they had enough good hard common sense to choose short names for the denominations such as common people could read and pronounce.
In mill, cent, dime, there is to be sure a hint of Latin, thousandths, hundredths and tenths, but our grand old common sense ancestors cut down and anglo-saxonized them to monosyllables which we can pronounce. Now suppose instead they had started with dollar, then instead of dime, cent and mill, they had said, de-cemfiddollar, centidollar and millidollar, and instead of eagle and double eagle had said decem-dollar and duodecemdollar. We would to-day look back upon them as a super-literary dilettant leatherheaded lot of old blockheads to attempt to saddle such a mess of foreign polysyllables upon a busy people, and we would probably be still wrestling with pounds, shillings and pence.
Now if the servants and legislators of today were possessed of the clean-cut practical common sense of our grandfathers, and would abandon Ki-log'-ram-me/, hec-tol'-i-tre and cen-tim-i-tre' (are these correct ?) and all such foreign polysyllabic nonsense, and adopt a decimal system of weights and measures with short names that we common plow joggers can pronounce, then the Gardener's Monthly can cease its efforts to "convert the master of the National Grange," and it will not be necessary to set his lecturers to work in the interests of this reform. But now, bad as it actually is for school children to "flounder" through gills, pints and quarts, for a few brief school days, it is nothing compared to the everyday use of those interminable French polysyllables for threescore years and ten.
The American merchants, manufacturers, railroaders, farmers and others are eminently a practical go-ahead people with abundance of good business common sense, and they will never willingly consent all their lives to pronounce and write those French polysyllabical monstrosities.
[The subject is one of great importance, and Mr. Adams' letter will serve to draw attention to it. As the Gardener's Monthly understands Mr. Adams, he is in favor of the French decimal system, but objects to the French names. The way is open for some one to impose convenient English names for the French ones as was done with dollars and cents. But as we have no English equivalents, and these terms are now of continual occurrence in English literature, it seems best that readers should familiarize themselves with the few terms or go to their dictionaries every time they see them, rather than that the newspaper should be called on to make the exact calculations every time they are used.
There is however much to be said on both sides and we are quite willing to confess since Mr. Adams took us to task, that it would have been better had we made the calculation for the reader than have copied the term as used in our extract. - Ed. G. M].