Monday, August 6, 2012

Return of the Decigram and Decagram

In 4th grade, my teacher, Mr. Tomani, told my class story to help us remember our metric system. In the final line of the tale, a woman named "Milli Kilo" sent a deck of graham crackers to a gentleman named "Hector". When said by the Italian character in the story, the line "Milli Kilo centa Hecta deci deca gram crackers." listed the measures of the metric system. I don't know if Mr. Tomani invented it, or if the mnemonic device was passed down for generations before reaching me, but it worked: this simple way of remembering the metric system is still ingrained in my head.

Milli Kilo and Hector recently came to mind when I read a box of prescription medicine. Whatever happened to hecta (100x), deca (10x), deci (.1 x), and centa (.01 x)? I've never used them in my life. I've never even heard them used outside of the classroom. All I've heard is milli or kilo. My prescription, for example, was 500 mg. Shouldn't that be 5 decigrams? Why not drop the zeroes and use the measurements we all learn?

What would happen if society started using the lesser know measurements again? What if my prescription wasn't working as well as I though it should and I asked to be bumped to a 6 decigram refill or something even stronger? Would my doctor understand my request?

I bet the cost of his eight years of medical school he wouldn't understand something I learned in 4th grade.

Imagine if food labels advertised in more obscure measurements. Suddenly that Big Mac with its 62 grams of fat only has 6.2 decagrams. Sounds healthier, doesn't it? 6.2 is a lot less than 62.

If I ran a restaurant my nutritional chart would purposefully use deca and hecta. I'm sure I could pull the wool over the eyes of quite a few customers. I'd sell a four patty, triple cheese, double bacon burger and advertise only 11 decagrams of fat. I'd call it "The Double Deca".

Of course, the riches and the customers would come to a halt when Mr. Tomani walks in.

Milli Kilo and Hecta would not be happy.