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I didn't have high hopes when I went shopping for A4-sized paper today.

The U.S. and Canada use 8 1/2 x 11 paper as standard. Europe uses A4, and I'm under the impression - based on no concrete evidence - that most of the rest of the world does as well. But 8 1/2 x 11 is standard here, so that's what all the shops sell. That, and legal sized paper.

I started off at Staples. The sales assistant assured me they stocked A4, but had to go find a manager to find out where. He came back disappointed. They didn't stock it after all, but I hadn't expected they would.

Grand and Toy was the obvious next stop, the Avenue and Bloor branch. As I walked over, I pondered what specialty stationary stores were nearby, in case they had it. The sales assistant at Grand and Toy was confused. I think she thought I'd said "84", meaning the weight of the paper. Once she realized she had no idea what I was on about, she sent me to the order desk at the back. I treasured vague hopes that some other one of their downtown stores might have stock.

But then the manager commented that she thought they had some in stock... and they did! I found A4 paper in Toronto! And the sales assistant gave me 5% off for having misguided me.

I don't know why a Canadian store stocked A4, but I needed it, they had it, and I went away a very happy customer.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 10th, 2004 08:52 pm (UTC)
A4 is based on metric measurements, so it's surprising Canada has so little of it. I know when I had to make drawings for use in Japan and Korea, they always wanted me to put them in A4, A3, A2 and even A1 (which is huge!) format files, since that was their paper sizes. (It was much cheaper to send them the printer output files on floppies than the actual drawings.)
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:30 am (UTC)
Canada is not obsessively metric, and something like replacing an established paper size requires a huge amount of conversion. There needs to be a very convincing reason for a country to switch established paper sizes. Also, of course, the distribution networks for North American suppliers are easier when they are supplying the same thing everywhere. I suspect proximity to the U.S. market plays some role, in addition to the fact that the paper size is well-ensconced here, although the country formally went metric in 1971.

Likewise, the construction industry still largely works in imperial measurements, apparently.

I'm told that out west in the prairie provinces, directions are given along the lines of "Drive north 22 km and turn left at the 15 mile marker."
Nov. 11th, 2004 10:58 am (UTC)
canadian metric vs imperial
That reminds me of so many things!

1) One September, after returning from summer holidays, my high-school math teacher asked me what I had done over the summer. One of the things we had done was to build a shed up at our cottage so I said: "We built a 15 by 30 foot shed up at our cottage". "Fifteen by thirty foot shed?!" he said "After all these years of teaching you the metric system, you built a 15 by 30 foot shed?!" :-)

2) The directions to the skydive facility this past weekend were in mixed mode: some of the distances were given in kms and others in miles.

3) Despite the fact that they delineate distances of kilometres, I believe most people still refer to the markers along the side of the highways as "mile markers" for the alliteration as opposed to "kilometre markers".

4) As a teenager when we were touring around in the States trying to get our hands on some alcohol a buddy of mine accidentally forgot to give the store clerk his phony ID and instead handed him his real identification because at the time, for the age he was, drinking was legal for him here in Ontario but not in the State we happened to be in. The clerk looked at his ID and said "You're not old enough, I can't sell you this" so my quick-witted friend said "Ah, but up in Canada we're on the metric system". The clerk scratched his head, we killed ourselves trying not to laugh, and in the end he let us buy our things!

...just my 2 cents...
Nov. 11th, 2004 11:00 am (UTC)
...for the double-posting
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:05 pm (UTC)
Re: sorry...
Not to worry - it's fixed now.
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:06 pm (UTC)
Re: canadian metric vs imperial
Those are good stories! Thank you for posting them.
Nov. 11th, 2004 01:53 am (UTC)
I once had a the hell of time trying to locate US quarto in the UK for an article for a book being produced by a US academic press which demanded all submissions on this size paper. I finally found some (which turned out to be just enough for my purposes) lurking for what reason I still don't know since it wasn't something of which a regular supply was maintained, in the stationary stores at work - with holes punched in one margin, go figure even further. (This was well before the days of submission by email.)
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:25 am (UTC)
Now I know I should keep stashes of A4 on this side of the ocean and 8.5 x 11 on that side, just in case. It's cheap and plentiful, but only when one is in the right place.
Nov. 11th, 2004 09:56 am (UTC)
These days one can probably organise this online - I shrink from transporting wodges of paper from continent to continent.
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:08 pm (UTC)
That's generally true, although if paper must be had, it's cheaper to have on hand, especially if there's spare luggage space (and, more improbably, weight).

If this particular application hadn't required my signature, I would have imposed on a friend in the UK to print out the documents for me and post 'em off. It would have cost me a great deal less, even with reimbursements.
Nov. 11th, 2004 03:00 am (UTC)
I have to say that, being Canadian, I really do prefer 8 1/2 x 11 paper to A4. But that's just me. It's such a nice proportion and it looks better than A4. But I live in Cardiff now so I don't think I'll ever be able to find 8 1/2 x 11 here. Glad to hear that Canadian stores do stock A4.
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:18 am (UTC)
But with 8 1/2 x 11 paper you can't just devide it in half to get the next paper size down, or double it to get the next paper size up.

With A3, A4 and a% paper, if you want an A4 folded leaflet, you use A3 paper and fold it down the middle so all the pages odf the leaflet are A4, and if you wnat an A5 leaflet you use A4 paper folded in half... simple and effective.


Nov. 11th, 2004 07:09 pm (UTC)
That just means there's a grand vision that went into the naming scheme in addition to its metricability. We do the same thing scaling 8.5 x 11 paper up an down, folding it in half to make programs and so on - but we then have even more awkward and less mnemonic measurements to contend with in order to describe the size.

I do rather agree with cwjat as to 8.5 x 11's aesthetics. Perhaps it's because 8.5 x 11 is closer to a square than is A4.
Nov. 12th, 2004 02:45 am (UTC)
But if you reduce an A4 page (of text/illos etc) by half, it fits neatly onto an A5 page and the same by reducing an A3 page down onto A$ or A5... you can't do the same with the 8.5 x 11s because if yuou fold onwe of those in half, you get a differnet shaped rectangle of paper - if you fold any of the A-sized pieces in half, you get a rectangle of the smae proportions, just smaller.... which works out rather neatly. You can reduce the size of a publication very easily and simply without having to reformat the pages to a differnet shape of paper.....

Nov. 11th, 2004 07:19 am (UTC)
OK, what was it you needed A4 paper for anyway?

(Librarian - a nosey and gossip by profession)
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:24 am (UTC)
A UK job application.

I'm finally getting around to starting job applications, and given they'll mostly be in the UK and the rest of Europe, it seemed to me it was worth investing in the paper. This particular application required it, and if I could possibly help it, I didn't want to stand out for the wrong reasons.
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:57 am (UTC)
Well, good luck with the applications.

Does that mean you might be moving over here then???

Nov. 11th, 2004 08:04 am (UTC)
That's the tentative plan anyways, to move somewhere in the EU for at least the next few years. It'll put me near useful archives and put Colin in a place where he doesn't need a work visa in order to work, which has been rather limiting for the past few years. We'll see if it works out.

If nothing else, we'll be over in the UK for several weeks around Christmas and were hoping to tour the country visiting friends for a week either before Christmas or after New Year's. We'd love to see you if the timing works out.
Nov. 11th, 2004 08:19 am (UTC)
that's funny. you're planning to be in UK for new years and i'm plannig to go to Toronto for new years hehe
Nov. 11th, 2004 08:23 am (UTC)
You're avoiding me, aren't you. ;)
Nov. 11th, 2004 08:19 am (UTC)
It'd certainly be good to see you both

Nov. 11th, 2004 08:37 am (UTC)
I won't be able to give you any belated christmas cookies :( it's the one time i year that i really enjoy baking. I bake everynow and then, but not often. But i love making pierogies and christmas cookies on the holiday. Maybe this year i could try babka. Though i think i'd enjoy baking more if the kitchen was cleaner. I can't wait to have a place of my own. When and if i EVER get a house, i'm going to buy one with a gigantic kitchen with tons of counter space.
Nov. 11th, 2004 07:10 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry I'll be missing out on your cookies! I'll be back in the UK in July.. but I doubt you'll be doing Christmas baking then.
Nov. 12th, 2004 05:31 am (UTC)
probably not ;) I'll be going to a wedding in July in San Diego.
Nov. 11th, 2004 10:43 am (UTC)
This is flashing me back to returning to high school in Canada and realizing that all my two-pronged Euro-binders were useless if I wanted to use looseleaf (although in retrospect I guess I could have been a little more creative.

Grand & Toy used to blow, especially when it replaced another chain I can't think of the name of. Maybe it doesn't anymore--but then I suppose I'm spoiled by living here :-/ ...
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )