Word Police

“Knackered” is NOT American English.”

“It has resonance and a lot of nice, hard ‘k’ sounds. Good word.”

“What does it mean?”

“Tired. Worn out.”

“But we have words for knackered already. Beat. Zonked. Drained. Wasted. It’s a long list. I’m just saying, American English for Americans. Let those Aussies, Cannuks and Brits be knackered all they want. I’m tired and that’s it.”

“I forgot about your linguistic xenophobia. You’re going to be SOL if you ever look in the dictionary. You’ll be left with a handful of words because MOST of our ‘American English’ came from somewhere else.”

“Whatever. I think it’s time we took a stand and established some kind of barrier between American English and imported words, like ‘knackered’.”

“A wall?”

“Yeah, a wall.”

“Are you going to build a wall between American English and all the OTHER languages we’ve stolen from, like Spanish? You won’t be able to talk about arroyos or lariats or order enchiladas any more, no more chili verde. You might ought to think about this.”

“Spanish words are all right because they’re really American.”

“Uh, Spain?”

“What about it?”

“Those words didn’t come from Mexico, pal. They came from Spain.”

“In Europe?”

“That Spain.”


“Can’t say that any more.”



“Actually, no one knows where that came from.”

“Ask the people in Fucking, Austria where it came from.”

“There’s a place named ‘Fucking’?”


“Wow. They must have a hard time keeping signs up in their town. I bet people steal them.”

“They do. All I’m saying is you can’t keep foreign words out, especially not from American English. English is the linguistic whore of the world already and American English is a really cheap whore.”

“OK, so from now on, no more foreign words. We’ll keep what we have, but no more. No ‘knackered’.”

“Whatever. Talking with you leaves me knackered. I don’t know how you manage with that thing inside your head that passes for a brain.”

“You want a beer?”


17 thoughts on “Word Police

  1. Love this!

    It’s like trying to explain why the plural of “goose” is “geese” (because German) and the plural of “moose” is “moose” (because Native American). I didn’t realize how much of our language is actually derived from Germanic — das Buch, das Bier, die Apfel, das Fest… etc…

    • I had a hard time learning German because English. I just read English. I felt like I wasn’t learning German at all, but last year in Switzerland I was able to understand announcements at train stations and people speaking and I even spoke a little bit so I guess I learned something! Elk (because German!)

      • My problem with learning German wasn’t so much my existing English, it was the fact I’m so bad with memorization. I had the grammar down good — all 16 different versions of the word “the”… but memorizing vocabulary words was so difficult for me. But I “appropriated” a copy of Rosetta Stone and started re-learning German and I find that much easier than taking German classes in college.

        • Rossetta Stone works. I used it. It’s a good method. It was a lot more effective than I knew at the time. IMO, a lot of language classes teach ABOUT a language; they don’t teach the language. I haven’t mastered (and will probably never master) the 16 different “the” words in German, but I did all right understanding and being understood. I taught English as a Second Language for a long time and what I observed of my students was that those who go out there and spoke English with Americans had a better time and learned more than those who were afraid to speak, afraid to make mistakes, and believed they needed to know everything about grammar before venturing out. In China I had no choice, I had to speak Chinese and I made a lot of mistakes, but usually things ended up OK. There are critical people out there (I met a few in Italy) but mostly not.

  2. And knackered is a word that you can also hear in the east end of London, not exactly cockney, but we rhyme it with a cockney word for tired it seems.

  3. It would be “cream crackered” but only according to what I found, and it is probably correct. It is not a cockney word that I used.

  4. So funny and informative, Martha, and a serious point well made. The photograph is hilarious. If vehicles could be knackered, that one would exemplify such a condition

  5. Hi Martha – – I nominated your for a blogger award! Check out my site for rules if you choose to participate. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blogs!

    • Hi — thank you, and I’m honored! But (You knew that was coming) I don’t do awards. When I first started my blog I did, but now, after nearly four years, I think they’re better for someone just starting out who could use the boost. 🙂

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