The temperature is finally rising above zero in (many parts of) Canada. With the April Fools' Day snowstorm behind us (not so funny), we are really hoping this is spring. In Canada, zero is the temperature at which ice melts. Well, unless you’re my mother, who I think is holding onto Fahrenheit just so that, in her world, it’s been above zero for a month now.
The first few instalments in this simperial series should have given you the sense that Canada has made an uneasy transition to the metric (SI) system of measurement. In daily talk, inches and pounds remain prevalent. Temperature is another case of simperial that editors need to navigate when Canadianizing a text.
Baby boomers largely gave up trying to use metric, as far as I can tell. I have a sense that 80 is a hot day (well, for northerners at least). But for me, air temperature’s only really meaningful in Celsius (SI or metric measurement). Forty is deadly hot. Minus forty is deadly cold; nostrils freeze shut at that temperature. It’s a nice symmetry.
But here’s the thing, even my 8-year-old son bakes cupcakes in Fahrenheit. Cooking is one of those holdout areas of imperial measure in Canada. Even the stove I bought last year doesn’t have Celsius markings on he oven dial. I can adjust the digital readout, I suppose, somehow. But it’s just not how we think about temperature.
Outside and room temperatures: Celsius
Cooking temperatures: Fahrenheit
Fever temperature: Celsius
Then there’s this oddity: I know that water boils at 100 °C; I have no idea what it boils at in Fahrenheit. I know 100 °F is fever temperature; tepid as far as water is concerned. But when caring for a sick kid, I follow the little tape on the side of my thermometer that says to get concerned when the readout hits 38.3 °C.* Humans have a safe operating range of only about four degrees Celsius (of internal temperature).
To understand more about simperial measures in Canada, check the other posts in this series:
Simperial—Distance Measures in Canada (also defines simperial)
*Normal temperature range tops out at 37.5 °C.