Monday, May 18, 2015

AND I WOULD WALK 804 KLICKS AND I WOULD WALK 804 MORE:  I was listening to this Canadian band I like, Great Big Sea, this morning.  A perfectly nice ghost story origin song about a dead pirate who haunts the rocks between Newfoundland and St Pierre.  As he was chased by the RCMP:

They said they heard him laughing
With the Mounties closing in
His engines scream murder
And his face set in a grin

The seagulls started lifting
Like an angry banshee choir
He hit the rocks at 50 klicks
And the sky lit up with fire

I ask you: How is "klick" better than "knot" in this context?

Look, I am a great proponent of the metric system for all scientific endeavors and international sporting events.  I'm fine, too, with keeping every day measurements in English units -- 65 miles per hour speed limits and kids measuring 48" to ride this ride.  But when it comes to songs and poetry written in English, is it ever more poetic to use "kilogram" or "klick" than "pound" or "gallon" or "hogshead" or "mile"?

(I'll not an exception for any songs about smuggling, where "kilo" is to be preferred.)


  1. Joseph Finn2:19 PM

    I would make the argument that more people have traveled at 50 klicks/hr and know how fast that is than have traveled at 26 knots/hr, which the generally would have no idea if it's especially fast or not. In that sense, I'd say klick works better.

  2. Jordan9:03 PM

    Okay, let's look at precedent. If the subject is Canadian songs about sailors, there was no greater expert than Stan Rogers, whose "Northwest Passage" is often referred to as the "unofficial Canadian national anthem." Let's turn to his "Barrett's Privateers," which tells the story of a ship chase. The climax begins with the line "then at length we stood two cables away." A cable is a tenth of a nautical mile. Use nautical units. A knot is one nautical mile per hour. Kicks, being American slang for kilometer, isn't even a unit of speed.

  3. D'Arcy10:04 PM

    I'm not sure "klick" is an American slang term. I'm Canadian, and I've heard it pretty much my whole life.

    Other than that, I agree with Jordan because Stan Rogers.

  4. Jordan11:02 PM

    I always thought it was a US military term. The more you know.

    On TPE's other point, "kis" is an acceptable shortening of kilos, in order to somehow rhyme it with Los Angeles.

  5. D'Arcy8:02 AM

    It's entirely possible you're right. I've always heard/used it as slang for km/h, but the origins may be in the US military.

  6. D'Arcy8:02 AM

    I also need to add that I'm tickled that TPE, who I'm pretty sure lives nowhere near Newfoundland, listens to Great Big Sea. I love them.

  7. The Pathetic Earthling8:50 AM

    Not only do I not live anywhere near Newfoundland (25 miles (or about 220 cables) east of San Francisco), I have never set foot in Canada.

    But, yes, I really like Great Big Sea, although I just have the one album, Sea of No Cares. Sometimes when I discover a band by accident, and really like an album, I stop with the first album so's I don't disappoint myself with the band (sometimes this is true with a single song. I've never found another Flogging Molly song I really like other than "Worst Day Since Yesterday" so after a few attempts, I stopped looking, though that song is on heavy repeat).

  8. Jordan10:09 AM

    So I looked it up, because this is clearly more important than real work and found out this: we're both right. In the US, it's used as military slang for kilometer. In some countries outside the US, when in the plural, it is slang for km/h. None of this changes the point that they should be using nautical units.

  9. D'Arcy9:55 PM

    Oh, but that isn't their first album, or even their best in my opinion. Play was earlier and I like it better.