'Don't Be a Knucklehead' Road Signs Rile New Jerseyites

Twitter screenshot.

Road signs along highways in New Jersey light up saying, “Don’t Be a Knucklehead,” in reference to the state’s strict social distancing orders. The epithet is used colloquially largely on the east coast and was made popular in the 1940s by an Army recruitment character known as “R. F. Knucklehead.”


Governor Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) frequently uses the term “knuckleheads” to describe those who disobey his executive orders.

But Joe Pennacchio, a Republican state lawmaker, feels insulted by the characterization and has asked the governor to refrain from calling New Jersey citizens stupid.


Pennacchio, R-Morris, took offense to Murphy’s continued use of the term, saying residents deserve better after making sacrifices when the state shut down due to the pandemic.

“I strongly condemn the flippant language the Governor has used in press conferences and on these signs,” Pennacchio said in a statement. “It is disrespectful to the citizens of New Jersey who have – and will continue to — make hard sacrifices to stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.

“The sophomoric language is unbecoming of the Governor, and certainly not fair to the people of New Jersey. Webster defines a knucklehead as a ‘stupid person.’ Is that what you think of sacrificing New Jersey citizens? Really?”

Calling citizens “knuckleheads” is insulting enough. But besides the disrespect, there is also an effort to encourage people to snitch on “knuckleheads” who violate the rules.

Sit down, shut up, and obey, knucklehead.

All around the country, governors are losing their patience with people who just won’t obey them. And the longer these restrictions are in place, the more resistance there will be.


This is especially true in coastal communities where there are beaches. Ordinary people just don’t understand why governors are treating them like little children. Of course, they know to maintain social distancing on the beach. What makes anyone think they wouldn’t?

The same holds true for golf courses and city parks. Governor Murphy is threatening to slap restrictions back in place if people don’t follow his commands.

How does he define “minimal knucklehead behavior”? Like a parent threatening a kid with a grounding if he stays out too late. It’s sickening. And maddening.

Try treating people like adults, governor. They will almost certainly surprise you.

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