Comments on the hugely overweight Dutch prisoner in the last posting had the rabbit wondering. What is the origin of stone - as in stone in weight? I really didn't know but Google means you never have to say you don't know and off went the rabbit on a voyage of exploration. References to stones usually cause much puzzlement across the North American continent - okay, you guys have pounds but not stones. A stone as mentioned below is 14 pounds and the weight (it's an Imperial weight technically) perhaps has some merit in dividing up (or something like that) large weights where the division may help get a clearer idea of what the weight represents. For example 'X weighs 13 stone 6 pounds' gives me a clearer idea of the bulk of X than 'X weighs 188 pounds' but maybe it's just a familiarity thing. Below are Imperial standards of length from Trafalgar Square (okay the topic is weight but bear with me).
Imperial Units were fixed in 1824 for use in the British Empire. Previously, English Units, a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Roman measurements, had been in use. The US Customary system derives from the English Units. Below is a baby bottle with Imperial. Metric and US Customary units marked. The UK officially went metric in 1995 but many Imperial measures survive, for example the pint measures are the only legal ones for beer but that may be about to change.
'This is all very well', I hear you cry 'but what is the origin of stone as a measure?' The answer is that originally localities had a good sized stone (as in literally a stone) which they used to measure commodities against. Of course, the stones were of variable weight from locality to locality so in the end standardisation had to come about and duly did. In the 14th century England’s exporting of raw wool to Florence necessitated a fixed standard. In 1389 a royal statute fixed the stone of wool at 14 pounds and the sack of wool at 26 stones.
So that's the answer.
Oddly some other stone weights still exist such as the glass stone of 5 pounds but effectively a stone is always 14 pounds. By way of utterly contrived link, I was going to end with Van Morrison's And It Stoned Me but every time I tried to embed, Internet Explorer crashed. I suspect foul play! I haven't commented yet on the Egypt thing but I'm totally engaged with it and full of admiration for the courage of the anti-government protesters and contempt for Mubarak's goons. The sooner he's on a plane out of there to spend more time with his no doubt stolen offshore funds the better.