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I'm in the US, and it would be common at my workplace to refer to the linear measurement numbers stamped on a cable as "footage". For example, "what was the footage of the cable where you spliced it?"

I'm now working an a system that will record some of these measurements on cables. But I'm having a hard time calling it "footage" because in the context, it would be very easy (possibly even likely) in the future for the unit of measure to be meters. And while the system itself could display the in feet or meters based on user preference, it is likely to store meters in its database, which will also require a name for the data field.

"Footage" from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition:

n. Length, extent, or amount based on measurement in feet.

What would the word be if the "in feet" part of that definition became "in meters" or just went away entirely? Is there a generic word for this regardless of the unit of measure? Or is there a metric system version of "footage"? Or is it normal in places that use the metric system regularly to say "footage" even when the unit of measure is meters? What would someone in Britain say (where they once used feet but now presumably use meters)?

I'd like something short, one word would be preferable.

  • I've never heard of "footage" in a measurement sense - the only meaning I knew was "camera/video footage" – Criggie Jul 14 at 3:57
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    @Criggie It is certainly used for distances, though I admit I never actually thought of it as being specific to measurements in feet. Similarly, when you talk about getting good mileage out of your car, I’ve never thought about that as being specific to measurements in miles. 25 km/L is still good mileage to me, not good kilometrage, and I would say the same holds for footage. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 14 at 7:06
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    @Criggie The photographic sense derives from the distance measurement: back in the analogue days film used to be measured in feet. – Paul Johnson Jul 14 at 9:38
  • Notice how even today’s cinematographers talk about getting "a good eight hours of footage" and such — even when no length of film has been exposed let alone in feet, only solid-state memory cards filled up with that amount of non-metric time, which isn't even a linear measurement. :) – tchrist Jul 14 at 16:02
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The answer is in your question: 'length'. No value is added by introducing the unit of measurement into the concept. But in the UK we inconsistently still talk about 'mileage' driven in our cars whilst measuring our carpets in metres.

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    Even more inconsistently we buy fuel in litres, measure distance travelled in miles and vehicle fuel consumption in miles per gallon involving a conversion between litres and gallons before we can work out our fuel consumption. No wonder people think metrication is difficult. – BoldBen Jul 13 at 22:45
  • It is not uncommon for a spool of cable to have the starting numbers NOT be 0 and even not necessarily be counting in ascending order. To me, footage always had the connotation of being relative, and implied that I needed to compare two footages from the same cable to know the length along the cable between two points. length seems to imply the counting starts at 0. Maybe relative length (m) or length stamp (m) would work -- thanks for the idea. – Azendale Jul 14 at 0:33
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    Cable is manufactured in much longer lengths than even the biggest spools of cable (e.g. 1000 meters) that are likely to be used by most people. The numbers start from 0 when the cable is manufactured, before it was cut and spooled. The marks are simply called "wire marks". They are not necessarily one foot apart, even if they measure the length in feet. "Length" is the wrong word, since the length is the difference between the numbers on two wire marks. – alephzero Jul 14 at 0:43
  • @alephzero Exactly. And the distributors that cut cable to make custom length spools do so by winding reel to reel, thus making the numbers descending if it's happened an odd number of times. wire mark (m) is actually something that would probably be pretty clear to someone in the field here, even if it is a little bit towards jargon. – Azendale Jul 14 at 0:53
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    For what it's worth, "footage" is more generally understood to mean a video recording of any length: "The police reviewed security camera footage of the incident," for example. Presumably, this comes from feet of film in the old days, but this usage has stuck. "Length" is indeed the generic word you want. – HemiPoweredDrone Jul 14 at 1:45
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You can't use "meterage" as this has a different meaning, the act of measuring. See Colins Dictionary. So I think you would have to record it as "The length in meters" to avoid possible confusion in situations where both imperial and metric units might be used. It's far safer to do so as there have been several recorded accidents, failures and near accidents where one unit was interpreted as the other.
There is no metric equivalent to the word footage that I, as an engineer and native BrE speaker, have ever heard.

  • I was hoping for something shorter. Being a database field name as the_length_in_meters is a bit unwieldy. Maybe I need to make my own word. At least for the internals of the system. meetage or mootage? I appreciate the BrE perspective. – Azendale Jul 13 at 17:03
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    @Azendale For a database field, you could call it susan (or meetage, or mootage) and it would still work. What's wrong with footage -- as long as you know what the units are, why does it matter? This is why naming is off-topic. Your question as it stands is on-topic: thank you for that. – Andrew Leach Jul 13 at 17:22
  • @Azendale A field name could be called LEN_MTR it doesn't have to be a valid word, but it's highly desireable that it somehow represents the contents. – Peter Jennings Jul 13 at 18:31
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    ‘Meterage’ would work perfectly well. OED gives ‘Action of measuring a quantity of goods, or commodity. Also: the quantity recorded by such measuring..’. Much the same as ‘measurement’ can be the act or the outcome. – Spagirl Jul 13 at 20:03
  • @Azendale, displaying it to a user or customer, as an engineer I'd use something like "length (m)". How you represent this in your database column names doesn't have to be visible to anybody but the programmers and DBAs. – The Photon Jul 13 at 21:53

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