We are always conditioned to interpret the world around us based upon the habits we have formed. Sometimes, even when things change, we don’t immediately notice because our habits keep clouding our perception of reality.
Nowhere is this more obvious than when we use abbreviations. Those of us with a scientific background will know what psi, Nm or ms mean. They don’t mean anything to non-scientists; even worse, they may mean something completely different.
Take coffee shops as another example. They try to seem cultured and Italian and give the sizes Italian names. If you’re in Starbucks and you ask for a ‘Venti’, then you mean you want a large coffee. To anyone who speaks Italian, it looks like you’ve ordered twenty coffees because that is what ‘Venti’ means.
Malta still has many remnants of its recent colonial history. Growing up there, I was used to using Imperial units of measurement even though I also know how to use metric units. Feet, yards and inches are things I’m used to. (ft, yd, in – those are how we write them of course)
Which explains my sudden shock at seeing this sign in Hungary on the metro:
The Hungarian currency is the Florint, abbreviated to Ft.
Either that, or McDonald’s are trying to make a real whopper.