12 Words We Didn't Realize Actually Had Specific Measurements

Over 100 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 12 Words We Didn't Realize Actually Had Specific Measurements
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Vote up the most surprising actual measurements.

The metric system introduced the world to a simple, standardized way of measuring most everyday things. In some countries, the adoption of the system has been mixed or outright resisted. Then there are circumstances that require a very specific unit of measurement that can't easily be covered by metric, imperial, or other conventional measurements. 

From the distance reindeer can walk before needing to pee, to just how much a buttload really is, this collection looks at what the specific dimensions of some of the world's funniest and most unusual measurements actually are, or what they were before their meanings changed over time.

Photo: Grolltech / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

  • 1
    116 VOTES

    A Shake

    What it measures: Time

    Specific measurement: 10 nanoseconds (0.00000001 seconds)


    To do something in “two shakes of a lamb's tail” is to do it incredibly quickly, but if you want to be incredibly pedantic (and who doesn't?), a shake doesn't refer to the wiggles of the derriere of a baby sheep. Instead, it describes chain reactions in nuclear physics. The cute idiom was simply used for security purposes. 

    116 votes
  • A Butt
    Photo: Grolltech / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
    113 VOTES

    A Butt

    What it measures: Liquid volume

    Specific measurement: 130 gallons


    A buttload is a way of saying a great quantity of something. It has nothing to do with one's rear end; it's actually a type of English wine cask that equals two hogsheads, or 130 US gallons. If you tried to drink a buttload of wine, you would be very, very dead. 

    As for how much a buttload of money is, that obviously depends on the denomination of the bills stuffed inside the butt (remember, we're talking about a barrel here). Let's go with $100 bills in this example. If a 5-gallon jug could hold a value of $980,000, then scientifically speaking, a buttload of money is $25,480,000. 


    113 votes
  • 3
    109 VOTES

    A Moment

    What it measures: Time

    Specific measurement: 90 seconds 


    The concept of a moment stretches back to medieval times, referring to the movement of a shadow on a sundial: 1/40 of an hour, or 90 seconds. Of course, the modern meaning of “a moment” has evolved along with our ability to track time more accurately. 

    109 votes
  • Donkey Power
    Photo: Shrek / Dreamworks
    74 VOTES

    Donkey Power

    What it measures: Power output

    Specific measurement: 250 watts 


    Donkey power is an engineering term used to describe a smaller unit of measurement than horsepower. In this case, it's simply 1/3 horsepower (c. 750 watts), which equates to 250 watts. 

    74 votes
  • A Ba' Hair
    Photo: Georg Cöler / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    70 VOTES

    A Ba' Hair

    What it measures: Distance, used to denote something extremely close 

    Specific measurement: 100 µm (0.1 mm / 0.0039 inches)


    This delightfully coarse Scottish phrase is used in a humorous way to describe something very close, as in “that bus missed ye by a ba' hair.” In the most literal sense, it refers to the width of a single pubic hair - basically a Scottish, and therefore funnier - way of saying “a hair’s breadth.”

    Pubic hair is thicker than other types of hair, so technically speaking, the Scots phrase offers a little more wiggle room than its more polite variant. 

    70 votes
  • 6
    90 VOTES

    A Smidgen

    What it measures: Volume

    Specific measurement: 1/32 of a teaspoon (0.156 grams or 0.0055 ounces)


    Like a pinch, a smidgen is a seemingly vague, tiny measurement that truly does have a specific value. It's half a pinch: 1/32 of a teaspoon. 


    90 votes