Leading article: Racing uncertainty

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The Independent Online

The bookmakers are toying with going metric. That would mean a farewell to quoted odds such as "5-2" and "11-4" and hello to less familar constructions such as "2.5" and "2.75".

If the industry goes through with this, Henry Youngman's joke –"I bet on a horse at ten-to-one. It didn't come in until half-past five" – might survive. But something else would inevitably die: the traditional language of the betting shop and the racing track.

The justification is modernisation. Bookmakers want to appeal to a new, younger audience. They evidently feel that the old system is redolent of woodbines and cloth caps and intolerably anachronistic in a world of iPhones and online betting. And perhaps they're right.

But "new" does not always mean popular. Remember New Coke? That didn't work out too well. What, we wonder, are the odds that bookmakers will still be quoting "5-2" in a decade's time?

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