Arbitrary Units of Measurement

There’s something wonderfully human about the arbitrary objects we use to describe sizes that are hard to comprehend.


Double-decker buses


Football Pitches


Empire State Buildings

(or more recently, Shards)


Tennis Courts (small)

Wales’s or Belgium’s (large)



(The height of which are often compared to double-decker buses)


Olympic swimming Pools

(NOT normal-sized swimming pools. That could be confusing)

Word Count

Novels – usually War and Peace

(Particularly used for explaining the length of government reports)

Distance (short)

Household objects

Distance (short)

(Also Red Squirrels, apparently)

Distance (long)

The Moon and back

Circumference of the earth

(Often used to explain the length of our inner body tubes)

Thickness (small)

Human Hair

(Is there one for large thickness? Tree trunks? Lampposts?)


Pneumatic Drill

Jumbo Jet


Nurses or footballers (depending on what point you’re trying to make)

Controversial wealth, tax payments, or spending


(e.g. Amazon’s missed tax payments would build 100 hospitals)

Buying Power

Big Macs



Internet Speed

Movies per second

Car Speed

Horse Power.

(Because we all know what ninety 90 horses somehow merging into one massive powerful horse would be like)

Calorie intake

Bic Macs


Body height

(e.g. a flea can jump 80 times it’s own height)

Baby Size

Types of fruit

Animal Intelligence

Human age

(e.g. A parrot is as smart as a three-year-old human)

Animal Brains

(Specifically types of nut, and specifically dinosaur brains)


(Many of these provided on Twitter by @steveoneill77, @patrickjharris, @Gerald_Ashley, @PolemicTMM, @JohnHyde1982, @rorysutherland, @JaseClarke_CX, @Armo, @aden_76)

All photos from the brilliant

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