Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/102

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92

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

complains of its lessons; it begs for a less task. We propose to excuse you from your Greek and your Latin, and from French forms, from long words and hard names, from the queer pronunciations and the wrong accents. We let you off from half the units, perhaps two-thirds, and furnish you with familiar standards of comparison for those which are left, and give you English names to boot—Anglo-Saxon when possible, short, terse, and significant—though we take care, on our part, to have them properly related, not leaving that matter to you.

What! not yet satisfied? Unreasonable mankind! let us convince you that this is the least cost you can pay, and insure the desired benefit.

Scarcely another so important reform awaits the human family. But it will not take care of itself. We have referred to two aspects of progress—progress among governments, want of progress among the people. The latter is incomparably the more important. The one is semblance, the other substance. Until the metric system is used, it is not a labor-saving machine for service, but a mere toy to look at—an anticipation, a dream, not a reality and a possession. And such it is now.

We must not rely on a change in human nature, but must adapt our system to it; otherwise, indeed, mankind may, perhaps, in the distant future, wear out to the system, like a Chinese foot to a shoe. Should we await this slow and painful process, or should we not rather adapt the shoe to the foot?

Can we look forward to a time when these long foreign words shall be as familiar to every child in Christendom as the words foot, yard, bushel, pound, now are to English ears? And yet this is the proper standard of familiarity; it must be absolute and unhesitating. Do the long words, indeed, deserve to be as familiar? Are they formed to be? No; we must reach the mother-tongue of each people.

Nor can we afford to wait, to bring the matter home.

Can the English and American peoples—the two most commercial peoples on the globe—be content, on the one hand, with permanent isolation, founded on inferiority? or, on the other, can they ask mankind to accept their system, forsooth, as worthy of universal use? Will England, for example, ask America to return to £ s. d. and qrs.? Or America, for very shame, present her compound reduction tables for the admiration and universal adoption of all nations?

Let not the friends of metric reform be deceived with vain hopes. Government work, and the work of colleges and schools and scientific associations, all put together, are not equal to adaptation!