Monday, September 19th was a very special day: International Talk Like a Pirate Day! If you weren’t aware of this occasion, you might have been under the impression that people celebrating it were either drunk or mad. However, the holiday actually has a long and distinguished history, going all the way back to 1995.
International Talk Like a Pirate Day is a great excuse to run around exclaiming “Arrrr!” (try it, it’s surprisingly therapeutic!) and referring to your coworkers as “scurvy bilge rats!” This is dialog ripped straight from cheesy adventure movies, but is it at all historically accurate? How did pirates really talk?
According to History.com, the “pirate talk” featured on the International Talk Like a Pirate Day website “combines actual nautical terms with fictionalized clichés.” It’s based on a combination of the colorful jargon spoken by the swashbuckling stars of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure stories and on the dialect British actor Robert Newton adopted for the film adaptations of the most famous of those stories, “Treasure Island.” History.com notes that Newton “based his vocal style on the “r”-rolling West Country accent of his native Cornwall—a choice that may approach historical accuracy, since many marauders during piracy’s heyday hailed from southwest England.”
So, the rolling r’s might have some basis in reality. But what about “Arrr?” The “Talk Like a Pirate Day” website notes that “I’m happy,” “I agree,” and “I’m enjoying this beer” are “are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!” Alas, me hearties, Hollywood probably made that bit up. Writing for Slate.com, Christopher Bonanos says that “Arrrrr” is mostly fiction, as are a number of the other affiliated signifiers: People very rarely walked the plank, and nobody has ever discovered an actual pirate treasure map.”
Talk Like a Pirate Day is over for now, so unless you’re at a Renaissance Faire, you should probably save the “Arrrs” and “Avasts” for next year, lest people think you’re drunk or insane.
But if you missed Talk Like a Pirate Day or just aren’t ready for it to be over, here are a few ways to celebrate without having your mental health called into question: