Units of elephant

The International System of Units, often referred to as the SI System, defines a small number of basic units, such as the second (time), metre (distance), kilogram (mass).

However, for the popular media these units have proved too limiting for the magnificent descriptive powers of our journalists and broadcasters, who have therefore evolved an alternative set of units which are used exclusively in the hackneyed writing of, well, hacks.

These are:


  • London double decker buses
  • Elephants
  • Blue Whales (obsolete as mostly extinct)
  • Grain of sand


  • Barn1
  • Postage stamp
  • Tennis Courts
  • Football pitches
  • Wales
  • Sahara Desert


  • Width of a human hair
  • Little finger
  • Round the world
  • Earth to the moon


  • Teaspoons
  • Olympic Swimming Pools


Since the building of the Pyramids

Please contact me if you have any additional examples

  1. The barn has never been an offical SI, but has been acknowledged in the 8th SI brochure (superceded 2019), due to its use in particle physics (no, really), and is thus not strictly eligible for this list. It is included due to its more common usage, (cf side of barn). Thanks to Brenton Bostick. ↩︎