Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Under a Bushel...

Now don’t Peck my head off, but I went to the wood place in Wales yesterday to buy, rather unsurprisingly, some wood.

Well, when I say wood I mean logs, logs to burn on the fire at home. We usually buy a cage full which is about six sacks of logs. But yesterday we went for half a cord, a cord being a 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet pile of wood.

Half a cord is quite a lot of wood. It entirely filled the back of the car with the seats down. All that wood, half a cord, got me thinking. Where did the cord measurement come from and what about all those other obscure measurements we were made to learn by rote at school back in the dark ages?

We all know that beer comes in barrels, but did you know that a Barrel of beer is 36 gallons (or 4 Firkins) whilst a Barrel of wine is only 31.5 gallons. No, I had no firkin idea either. Nor did I know that away from quaffable liquids a Barrel of oil is 42 US gallons whilst a UK gallon is for once bigger than its US cousin and equivalent to 1.2 US gallons (approx).

Not only that, but it seems that a Bag is equal to 24 gallons, although why you would keep liquids in a bag is a bit of a mystery. Not so a Bucket, which is equal to 4 gallons, or a Butt which is equal to 108 or 126 Gallons dependent on whereabouts in the country you are and how much rain you get.

But who wants water when there is booze to be had? Apparently there are 16 Drams to the Fluid Ounce which equals 16 Minims, a Gill is a quarter of a pint, a Hogshead 52.5 gallons, a Kilderkin is equal to 18 gallons, a Puncheon is equal to 70 gallons and a Last is equal to 640 gallons which is about 14 pints a day.

And that’s just the liquid volumes. Throw in Lines, Links, Chains, Mils, Nails, Palms, Perches, Poles, Rods, Ropes, Roods and even Thous and you really have something to measure up to.

Goodness knows why 32.174 pounds is a Slug or why 20 Grains is a Scruple, or what 24 Scruples or 20 Pennyweights (which equals an Ounce Troy) is used for. It’s enough to drive you to a Noggin or two, a Noggin being a measure of spirit roughly equivalent to a Gill which, if I had any scruples, should really be called a slug I think.

It’s all a bit hard to Fathom (6 feet of depth in water) really. But what about that Cord of wood, where did that name come from? Well believe it or Knot (6080 Feet) it’s simply named after the 4 foot length of string (Cord) that was used to measure the wood stack.

Yes, you really have to Hand (4 inches) it to those old time measurers they really knew how to Palm (3 inches) us off when it came to measurement and set the Pace (2.5 feet). You might even say that they were in a League (3 miles) of their own.

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