Friday, March 03, 2006

units of measurement

All right, word-smiths, how much is a dram? My dictionary, very unhelpfully, has as the first definition "1/8th of an ounce" and as the second "1/16th of an ounce."

I've been reading about a leader who increased the liquor ration from 3 drams to 30 drams. Obviously this is a large increase, but I'm curious to know just how much.

Spent a lot of the morning wrestling with bureaucracy. Most of it redefined the word tedious, but it was pretty cool to mail in my paperwork for graduation. I'm reasonably tickled to think of all of the bored families who will page through their graduation programs and at least skim my name and dissertation title.


John B. said...

I think that it is 1/8 ounce...3/4 teaspoon. I see it occasionally in bartending recipes.

tommyspoon said...

I'll second CPF's assertion.

I can tell you that a "scruple" is one half of a dram.

But I usually don't make my cocktails that small...

Joe said...

That seems to be right. 3 drams is .375 ounces, more commonly known as "bupkus." (Perhaps the right amount of vermouth in a martini.)

Which makes 30 drams 3.75 ounces, which is approximately 2 shots. (In my shot glasses, anyway.)

Bartleby said...

The reason for the two dictionary entries is that one is a unit of volume (that's the "1/8 ounce" one), and the other is a unit of weight (the "1/16 ounce" one). And the confusion is all the more understandable since the "ounce" is really two different ounces: one being a volume ounce (1/16 of a pint), and the other a weight ounce (1/16 of a pound).

I hate to be a complete metric-system geek here, but this foolishness does not occur in the metric system. In the SI, weight (like all forces) comes in newtons, volume comes in cubic meters, and mass comes in kilograms -- three words that sound not at all like each other.

The ounce thing makes a certain amount of sense, in the context of water: the weight of a pint of water is approximately one pound ("a pint's a pound, the world around"), and so the weight of a volume ounce of water is approximately one weight ounce. The same cannot be said, however, of drams: one volume dram would weigh about two weight drams. Why they were defined that way, I have no idea.

I do know that I teach my class entirely in the Systeme Internationale. In class, we refer to English-system units as "Satan's units" ... since it is well-known that the devil loves to spawn confusion, error, and misery.

I hope you'll post your diss online somewhere, when the time is right.

Rob said...

Wow. Application for graduation. That's the kind of bureaucracy through which I won't mind wading!