A smoot is a distinctive and informal unit of length that comprises 5 feet 7 inches. This unconventional unit owes its name to Oliver R. Smoot, a Harvard graduate student who, in 1958, became the unwitting source of measurement for the Harvard Bridge.
The Smoot’s Origin
Table of Contents
Oliver Smoot’s unusual claim to fame began when he was used as a “human ruler” to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge, which spans the Charles River in Massachusetts. His friends, humorously and somewhat haphazardly, laid him down end-to-end 364 times across the bridge. Remarkably, the bridge was found to be exactly 2,310 feet long. As a result, the smoot became synonymous with 5 feet 7 inches.
Usage of the Smoot
The smoot is not an official unit of measurement, but it has found a place in informal and often humorous descriptions of distances. People might playfully state that something is “a smoot long” to add personality to their language. For instance, you could say, “The new building is a smoot tall,” meaning it is 5 feet 7 inches in height.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is the smoot widely recognized as a unit of measurement?
No, the smoot is not an official or globally recognized unit. It is more of a local and playful measurement associated with the Harvard Bridge and Oliver Smoot.
Are there other instances where unusual objects or individuals have been used for measurements?
Yes, there have been various instances of unconventional measurements. For example, the London Bridge was once measured in terms of double-decker buses, and the height of trees might be expressed in terms of stacked telephone poles.
How can I use the term “smoot” in everyday language?
You can use “smoot” informally to describe distances, particularly when you want to inject humor or personality into your speech or writing.
Is there any practical application for the smoot beyond humorous expression?
While not a formal unit, the smoot’s humorous and unique nature can add an element of fun to various situations, but it is not used for precise measurements.
Are there any other instances of people’s names being associated with units of measurement?
Yes, there are other examples, such as the “angstrom” (named after physicist Anders Jonas Ångström) and the “hertz” (named after physicist Heinrich Hertz), which are official units in the International System of Units (SI).
The smoot, with its amusing origin and informal nature, is a delightful unit of measurement that adds a touch of whimsy to language. While it may not have any official status, it remains a charming and memorable way to describe distances and heights, especially in the context of the Harvard Bridge and Oliver R. Smoot’s unique contribution to measurement history.