Leading Article: Preserving the pint for the common good

THE PINT of beer in a country pub and the road sign announcing the number of miles to the nearest market town are to stay imperishably part of the British way of life. The Government, negotiating with our European partners, has saved them for future generations.

Such tenacious tradition is not, however, peculiar to the British. It is all to do with the universal appeal of words that impart to their users a sympathetic resonance of stability, wealth and substance.

Most people over 40 can still recite the list of farthings, ha'pennies, pennies, thru'penny bits, sixpences, florins and half- crowns. Some may even think in guineas, when in celebratory mood. The burgeoning ranks of India's new middle class happily aspire to amass rupees in quantities so stupendous they can only be counted in lakhs and crores, being measurements of one hundred thousand and 10 million respectively. The bazaar merchant in Tehran smilingly numbers his profits in tomans, worth 10,000 dinars.

Even in Europe, the sternest proponents of harmony cannot dictate to tradition hallowed by common usage. Who could be more rigorously communautaire than the French - and what could be more French than champagne? And how is this precious commodity measured out to the thirsty and fortunate? Why, in jeroboams, Methuselahs and Nebuchadnezzars, of course. Long may it be so.