Tiny little stylistic point

Max Robins of the New York-based Paley Center for Media pointed out how significant it was to scrap a show that still attracts almost 15 million viewers an episode. \”It makes CBS a tonne of money and for them to do this it had to be incredibly serious.\”

The difference between tonne and ton is not a matter of mere spelling differences between English English and American English.

The ton is either the Imperial (or long) ton of 2,240 lbs, or the short ton of 2,000 lbs (either could be common in US usage). The tonne is the metric tonne of 1,000 kg (2,204 lbs).

Agreed, this might seem trivial, but to one who works in the metals trade when you see \”ton\” the first thing you ask is \”ewhich ton\”? Whereas \”tonne\” has a well defined meaning.

But what this means is that when an American says \”ton\” we do not automatically transcribe it as \”tonne\” in English English.

It\’s fine that we change \”color\” and \”harbor\” to \”colour\” and \”harbour\”, but not \”ton\” to \”tonne\”.

Hmm, what\’s that? Yes, I suppose I ought to, you\’re right, get a life……

10 comments on “Tiny little stylistic point

  1. But if you get a life, what will I read every day?

    Funny story – I worked on a tunnel project where the exhaust stack emission monitoring spec started out specifying a sensor range in micrograms, but using µg in the text. At some point someone’s copy of Word helpfully corrected this to mg and no one noticed. And we bought and installed half a million dollars worth of equipment with it.

    Of course, we worked it out when the signal we got was basically noise at the bottom of the range. Then there was a sudden rush for the exits as subcontractors, consultants, etc ran to check their email archives to see if had changed on their watch.

    Happy days….

  2. it was ghostbusters, right, with the ten meter cattle prod? only for comic effect. to any american eye, you make the guy seem a complete dweeb. well worth objecting to. Stupid sub-editing.

    i commend American into English, by GV Carey, Heinemann 1953. But then a ton was a ton, in 1953.

  3. When the changeover from ton to tonne was still new, my then employer had the sound policy of having us all pronounce the metric one as “tunnie”.

  4. Au contraire, Tim: you have a life. It’s the idiot of a sub-editor who changed “ton” to “tonne” who hasn’t one.

    “Ton” used in this sense is idiomatic and metaphorical, in the same way “doing a ton on the motorway” is. Nothing to do with actual measurements. This idiot sub is the sort who would change “it’s miles better” to “it’s kilometres better”.

    Or maybe at the brave new bleeding-edge world of your brilliant new iPadded Guardian, they’ve got some sort of fancy-pants automatic “metric-check” which automatically changes imperial to metric without the sub noticing.

    Tim adds: To be entirely fair, got an email back from the journo and he agrees “ouch! yes. good point. and you’re right to raise it, thanks.”

    Rapped knuckles for subs, here we come…..

  5. Agreed, this might seem trivial, but to one who works in the metals trade when you see “ton” the first thing you ask is “ewhich ton”?

    Or in the oil industry (which I left about 3 years ago) there’s the ‘long ton.’

    I’d currently be more interested in the difference in translating the word ‘pint’ from US to UK. (1UK pint = 1.2 US pints. Or if you ordered a pint in the US you’d be getting 80% of what you thought you’d ordered.)

    Tim adds: worse than that. 16 fl oz to 20, yes, but the size of the fl oz is different as well. 1.04 to 1……but for the life of me, cannot remember which way around. And no, not going to use Google.

  6. Yes. Hence also “Miss Taylor”. The amount of money was made up as “an amount of money that might have been appropriate at some point between the end of WWII and 1970, when the joke was supposedly made”.

  7. I’ve been running into problems with American editors in that they don’t seem to understand significant figures. If they’re not changing 22.0 GW to 22 GW, they’re changing 30km offshore to 30.00 km offshore, just because you said somewhere else in the same paragraph that tariffs rose to 12.52 € per kW. Do Americans not use significant figures?

    Tim adds@ Depends upon the style book they use. And diffrerent papers will use different ones. AP< NWT, Chicago etc. Can get consfusing. But they are terribly anal about which style book they do use, no deviations allowed. In one piece I did over there, to slightly lighten things up, I referred to U-bang and U-not bang instead of U 238 and U 235. they said that since I was referring to isotopes I must use the formal designation, nothing I said about a leeetle joke would change their minds.

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