Saturday, February 22, 2020

Wales Is Smaller Than You Think It Is

In the UK the country of Wales is often used as a unit of measurement. According to the BBC Wales has been used to describe things as varied as :-
  • the area an asteroid could wipe out 
  • how much damage a nuclear bomb could destroy
  • the levels of deforestation in the Amazon

Using Wales as a unit of measurement isn't new. According to Google Book's Ngram Viewer the phrase something is the '.... size of Wales' has been showing up in literature fairly consistently since 1842.

Despite this long history there is actually one very major problem with using Wales as a unit of measurement. That problem is that Wales is actually smaller than you think it is.

Yesterday I asked the readers of Maps Mania to draw where they think the border between England and Wales is on an interactive map. The results were (to me at least) a little surprising. You can explore all the border lines drawn by Maps Mania readers for yourself on this Hunting Wales interactive map.

As you can see from the screenshot above the majority of people think that the border between Wales & England is actually a lot further east than it really is (the real border is shown in green). The conclusion therefore has to be that most people think that Wales is actually much bigger than it really is.

What is even more surprising is that there is a very small part of Shropshire (in England) which every single person who responded to the survey thought was in Wales. The small hamlet of Anchor is in southwest Shropshire, England. In my survey not one person included Anchor in England. Everybody thought it was in Wales.

A corner of a native field which shall remain never England


Obviously my map survey has no real validity. Only around 80 people responded to my map survey. This isn't a large enough sample to make any reasonable conclusions about where people think the border between Wales & England really is. The readership of Maps Mania is also very global. This means that a lot of the people who drew on the map were not British and may have a less thorough knowledge of UK geography than the majority of British people (although I suspect it is actually better). So if you are British person it is probably safe to continue using Wales (and football pitches) as your standard unit of measurement (particularly if you want to exaggerate the size of something).

1 comment:

Randal L. Schwartz said...

But how does Wales compare to Rhode Island, the standard unit of "small" in the US?