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In 1995, created by two friends as a joke, Talk Like a Pirate Day, on September 19, has become a beloved fake holiday that allows everyone channel their inner Jack Sparrow. Eventhough real pirates probably didn’t use much of the vocabulary we now think of as “pirate lingo,” Talk Like a Pirate Day gives us a fun chance to break out of our routine, learn some history, and celebrate a past era.
So grab some drink(if you’re of drinking age), collect up some friends, and let your imagination take you on an adventure on the high seas!
Talk Like A Pirate Day 2022 is celebrated on September 19 every year.
HISTORY OF TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY
Talk Like a Pirate Day was originated in 1995, when two friends from Oregon jokingly created the holiday while playing racquetball. They celebrated it silently for a few years, sharing the joke with a small group of friends. One day in 2002, they wrote to humor columnist Dave Barry asking him to be the spokesperson for National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Amazed by the idea, Barry said yes. He wrote a column about the holiday, giving it national fame and generating a wave of Talk Like a Pirate Day events and celebrations all over the country. According to Summers, the day is the only known holiday to come into existence as a result of a sports injury. During a racquetball game between Summers and Baur, one of them reacted to the pain with an outburst of “Aaarrr!”, and the idea was generated. That game took place on June 6, 1995, but out of respect for the observance of the Normandy landings, they chose Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday, as it would be easy for him to keep in mind.
From Treasure Island to Pirates of the Caribbean, pirates continue to catch our imagination. Idealized in literature and film as rough outlaws, pirates have been seen in one form or another for hundreds of years. First recorded in Asian seas after the fall of the Chinese Han dynasty in the 2nd century, piracy extended across the world with the rise in maritime technology and ocean commerce that occured after the discovery of the New World.
When we think of pirates, we usually picture the so-called Golden Age of Piracy as said in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Issued in 1883, the adventure novel was greatly influential in generating the pirate as a pop culture stereotype. “Treasure Island” gave us X-marked maps, shoulder-perched parrots, and buried treasure, motifs that still anchor any pirate-themed set.
Started in 1967, Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride remains one of the park’s most famous attractions. The last attraction Walt worked on before his death, “Pirates” attracts visitors in the richly detailed world of a Caribbean port falling victim to plunder.
Unfortunately, most of the fun phrases we allot to pirates are pure fiction. But that doesn’t need to keep you from enjoying this good-humored holiday with your friends!
At least three songs have been written about Talk Like a Pirate Day. Michigan filk musician Tom Smith wrote the original “Talk Like a Pirate Day” song on Talk Like a Pirate Day 2003. Later, inspired by the coincidence that September 19 is Hermione Granger’s birthday, Smith wrote “Hey, It’s Can(n)on,” in which Granger becomes a pirate queen after she discovers that her birthday falls on Talk Like a Pirate Day. Tom Mason and John Baur wrote “Talk Like a Pirate,” performed by Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers.
Part of the success for the international spread of the holiday has been allocated to non-restriction of the idea or non-trademarking, in effect opening the holiday to creativity and “viral” growth. For example, entertainer Tom Scott became the United Kingdom’s first official organizer as “Mad Cap’n Tom”, before the day was picked up by charities such as Marie Curie.
The connection of pirates with peglegs, parrots, and treasure maps, popularized in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island (1883), has had a vital influence on parody pirate culture. Talk Like a Pirate Day is celebrated with hidden easter egg features in many games and websites, with Facebook introducing a pirate-translated version of its website on Talk Like a Pirate Day 2008 and publisher O’Reilly discounting books on the R programming language to celebrate. In September 2014, Reddit added a pirate theme to their website.
TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY TIMELINE
The earliest recorded pirate attacks begin after China’s Han Dynasty falls.
The increase in maritime trade and travel between Europe, the Americas, and Africa provide ample opportunities for Caribbean pirates.
Female pirate Ching Chih commands a fleet of 1,800 ships and between 40,000 to 80,000 pirates.
After humorist Dave Barry writes about the new fake holiday in his column, people nationwide start celebrating TLAP Day.
On Talk Like a Pirate Day, the tradition is to walk, talk, and act like a pirate. Actually Pirate lingo is really cool and it’s fun to embrace the lingo. There are many online sources and translators for improving on your ‘pirate talk’ or translating complete chunks of text to pirate language.
Some people go all out and host pirate parties where guests don pirate costumes. Well known food items for the day consists of cannonballs made out of cheese balls, cheese crackers as Polly crackers, hotdogs with octopus arms, hummus as quicksand dip, and, of course, fish.
BY THE NUMBERS
1883 – the year author Robert Louis Stevenson issued the book “Treasure Island.”
1950 – the year when Disney released the film “Treasure Island,” which many pirate phrases derive from.
29 – the age at which America’s first female pirate, Rachel Wall, was hanged.
8 P.M. – the time after which lights and candles were put out on the ship, according to the Pirate Code of Conduct set by Captain Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts.
38 – the number of days that Julius Caesar was imprisoned and held captive by pirates.
$200 million – the amount a pirate crew once stole in a single plunder.
1,800 – the number of ships pirate Madame Ching Shih commanded.
40,000–80,000 – the number of men working under pirate Madame Ching Shih.
1717 – the year when Stede Bonnet, a retired British army major who owned a sugar plantation in Barbados, decided to become a pirate.
14 – the number of pirate attacks in Nigerian waters recorded as of March 2019.
How it all began?
John Baur and Mark Summers were having a fun game of Squash/Racquetball on June 6 1995, when they randomly began shouting pirate slangs at each other to motivate the other to play better. This spontaneous exchange in pirate language had made their game more fun, and time seemed to fly by. This made the duo realise that the world really needed a new national holiday, a Talk Like A Pirate Day! September 19 was selected as there weren’t any other “days” that were celebrated, and it was also Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday, a day he could easily remember.
For close to seven years, John, Mark, and their friend Brian Rhodes celebrated this among themselves, until they chanced upon Dave Barry’s email address in 2002 and planned to email him asking to share about this day with the world and become the ‘official spokesperson’ for the event. Dave Barry wrote the nationally syndicated humour column for the Miami Herald, and his column on ITLAPD became an instant hit.
Over the years, ITLAPD has reached much mainstream popularity that internet giants like Google and Facebook have introduced Pirate English as a language on their websites (in the past) to celebrate the day. In fact, you can type “Google Pirate” on the search bar and change the language from normal English to Pirate’s English!
How can you celebrate?
You can check from the Google and search for Pirate Translators that translate everyday English to English that a pirate would speak. You can send your friends texts like “Wha’ are ye doin’ today?” without any warning, or you can make up sentences by yourself by looking to a pirate glossary online (www.pirateglossary.com). Apart from catching on the pirate lingo, you can binge watch some pirate-themed movies, like the Pirates of the Caribbean or even read some books (e.g., Treasure Island, by RL Stevenson). Remember to replace the hey with ahoy!; friend with mate; you with ye; yes with aye and my/mine with me. I hope ye enjoy yer day, mate!
English actor Robert Newton is the “patron saint” of Talk Like a Pirate Day. He illustrated pirates in many films, most remarkably Long John Silver in both the 1950 Disney film Treasure Island and the 1954 Australian film Long John Silver, and the title character in the 1952 film Blackbeard the Pirate. Newton was born in Dorset and studied in Cornwall, and it was his native West Country dialect, which he used in his portrayal of Long John Silver and Blackbeard, that some contend is the origin of the standard “pirate accent”. However it should also be noted that many English sailors came traditionally from the West Country where the accent is frequent. When James I outlawed the piratical practices of the Royal Navy in 1609, some crews fled to the Caribbean to continue the practice, taking their talks with them. This was imitated in the 1950s and 1960s by British comedian Tony Hancock.
The archetypal pirate word “Arrr!” (alternatively “Rrrr!” or “Yarrr!”), which in West Country parlance meaning “yes”, first was seen in fiction as early as 1934 in the film Treasure Island starring Lionel Barrymore, and was used by a character in the 1940 novel Adam Penfeather, Buccaneer by Jeffery Farnol. However, it was Robert Newton’s use of it in the classic 1950 Disney film Treasure Island that familiarized the interjection and made it broadly remembered. It has been theorized that rhoticity (pronouncing the letter r essentially everywhere it appears), a distinctive element of the speech of the West Country of England, has been linked with pirates because of the West Country’s strong maritime heritage, where for many centuries fishing was the main industry (and smuggling a major unofficial one), and where there were several major ports. As a result, West Country speech in general, and Cornish speech in particular, may have been a major influence on a generalized British nautical speech.
Talk Like a Pirate
Ahoy, Matey! This clear application of the celebration might be a little more difficult than one might think. Because, who really knows what pirates sound like when they talk?! Some phrases are more usually known, like “pillage” or “landlubber”. But others are a little harder to understand. Here’s some vocabulary and lingo to help get novice pirate talkers began:
- “Son of a Biscuit Eater”. This is what pirates may call someone they don’t like, the idea being that a biscuit eater is refined and, well, not a pirate.
- “All Hand Hoy!” Upon hearing this, everyone needs to get on deck to help out.
- “Bring a Spring Upon ‘er”. A phrase meaning to turn the ship in another direction.
- “Grog Blossom”. A person who has a red nose because they drink too much alcohol (probably rum).
Read Some Pirate Tales
Even people who are land-dwellers can obviously use their imaginations to read about different pirates and their escapades. From classic to modern, stories about pirates are bound to be exciting and adventurous! Surely reading some books about pirates will help to construct up that Talk Like a Pirate Day language.
Have a glance at these classic pirate novels to get started:
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Scottish author brought pirates to life in 1881 with his talk of buccaneers and buried gold.
- Peter Pan by JM Barrie. Infused with run-ins with Captain Hook, the original Peter Pan stories from 1904 are much darker than the Disney animated remake films.
- The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott. Written by another Scottish author, this 1821 novel features Captain Cleveland, a shipwrecked captain in the setting of the island of Shetland.
- The Life, Adventures, and Piracies of the Famous Captain Singleton by Daniel Defoe. The first book written on this list, the 1720 book tells the story of an Englishman who was stolen, raised by gypsies, and eventually takes to life on the sea.
Watch Pirate Films
If you are not much into reading? That’s fine! Several films about pirates have been made so that individuals and groups can spend a couple of hours hearing all kinds of pirate-talks.
The Pirates of the Caribbean series of films can take up a nice chunk of time with its 6 different movies in the franchise. Or for an inspiring one-off, try a modern day somewhat-true-to life pirate story starring Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips.
Invite Friends to Celebrate All Things Piratey
Well mate, celebrating talk like a pirate day can be as easy as a day in the tropic. Simply work to turn up that pirate-speak local, pour a few fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, and catch up with friends to celebrate the day in your piratey best clothing! There are songs to be sung and wenches to be clenched, and who can resist a backyard barbecue with grilled pineapple, salmon made by walkin’ the plank, and a perhaps inappropriately large amount of pure sugar cane rum? Talk Like a Pirate Day is comin’, are you ready to pirate it up? This is certainly the perfect day for it!