Saturday, September 19th, is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye swabs! Me thinks there’s never been a need for a day such as this as there be here ‘n’ now. It were started purely for the livin’ hell of it by a couple o’ scoundrels b’ the names of Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket, known to their dear muthers as John Bauer and Mark Summers, “The Pirate Guys,” in anno dominee 1995. Celebratin’ privately at first, in 2002 they went the world over, helped powerfully by th’ Pulitzer Prize winnin’ scribe, Dave Berry. The day has grown in favor from ever since.
And that’s pretty much it for the pirate speak, barring a salting here and there as the piratical spirit moves.
Like many of civilization’s truly refreshing ideas, Bauer and Summers’s inspiration to create Talk Like a Pirate Day, or TLAPD, came while fooling around. Apparently they got into pirate speak while playing racquet ball, and it was too fun to stop. I’m not sure why it seems better known as National Talk like a Pirate Day when the originators refer to it as an international holiday. Before it’s resolved, there may be gun play . . . .
Whether national or international in reach, these two guys have hit upon the perfect faux holiday. The vast majority of us harbor a truly obnoxious streak, and what better way to indulge it than to spend an entire day talking like a pirate? This is especially true around the office, particularly if you work at a high powered brokerage firm, or better yet, a church, say your synod or parish office. Answer the phones with “Avast! Heave to and prepare to be boarded!” Or, “State yer bizness or be damned to you, ye snivelin’ weepsot!” Shout it at the top of your lungs each time, and you’ll make an impact on your callers and your cubicle mates. Eat out and order like a pirate, especially in that really snooty restaurant you’ve always secretly disliked. Dress the maitre’ d down as a scurvy, weevil-ridden flapgalloot—who knows, you might get the best table in the house. If not, concentrate on sneering effectively as they show you the street. If you have to go down, do it in style!
Be sure to recruit your friends to talk like a pirate with you. It doesn’t have to make sense—if you’ve got creative friends you can prattle on in doggerel (loudly, of course!) and still get most of your point across without ever slipping into intelligibility. Don’t be shy, give it a try. What have you to lose but your inhibitions? Remember: it’s not so much the vocabulary, it’s the attitude.
Feel like you’re in over your head? Never fear. This is the 21st Century, and the Internet is there to help you! Here’s a handy Website John and Mark have put together to help you out if you don’t feel up to the challenge. It includes an English-to-pirate translator that’s rather fun, although if you follow their link to Sydd Souza’s translator, it’s a little better. I tried the beginning of the Gettysburg Address:
“Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
and got this:
“Four score an’ se’en voyages ago, our forefathers brought fore upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty an’ dedicated t’ th’ proposition that all men be created equal. Ya scurvy dog who ortin’ t’ be keel hauled!”
The translator from the Official Pirate Site was a bit more subtle (be sure to click “ahoy,” clicking “avast” clears the box):
“four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated t’ t’ proposition that all men be created equal.”
The second one might not pass muster as pirate speak without the proper accent and a sprinkling of “aaars.” The first one will set you apart as a fluent speaker of pirate.
Another invaluable Internet resource is the Shakespeare Insult Kit. Memorize a few of these jewels, and you’ll never be at a loss for piratical words. Use this tool with the proper pirate swagger, and the decks will clear before you as you make your bloodthirsty way to the cafeteria salad bar. You can take the last of those herb-butter croutons, and no one will dare say a word!
If you really need help, grab a copy of the Walt Disney Company’s film version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is definitely gaining ground (with the added benefit that if you imitate him, you just might be able to explain away that three martini lunch) but Robert Newton as Long John Silver is still the true Father of All Pirate Speak. Only he could pull off his sham-sorrowful benediction at Mister Arrow’s memorial: “Aarrmen.” If you doubt me, consider that he’s the one who single handedly changed the public’s perception of Long John Silver’s expression “Shiver my timbers” to the better known “Shiver me timbers!”
So brace up me buckos! Screw yer courage t’ the stickin’ place, grab yer weapons and over the gunnels! Board ’em hard and fast, take no prisoners, and devil take the hindmost! Talk Like a Pirate Day comes but once a year!