ARRRR! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day
ILLUSTRATION BY KATE BIZER
Ahoy, mate! Sept. 19 is the official International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a holiday started by John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers from Albany, Ore.
Their idea was to encourage people to babble like a buccaneer for the fun of it. It came to them while playing a heated game of racquetball when they started insulting each other in pirate talk. From then on, Talk Like a Pirate Day was born.
The holiday took a few years to take off until humor columnist Dave Barry featured its story in an article in the Miami Herald in 2002, according to Baur and Summers. The Barry story, and the 2003 release of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which has had two follow-up sequels with another one on the way, popularized all things pirate.
Pirate is even a language preference on Facebook. International Talk Like a Pirate Day is now a holiday celebrated by millions of people each year on all seven continents, including the International Space Station, according to www.talklikeapirate.com
Baur and Summers have performed as pirates in Las Vegas resorts, at libraries, bookstores, schools and at several seedy bars. They also have authored two books, “The Pirates Life: Unleashing Your Inner Buccaneer,” published by Kensington, and “Pirattitude! So You Wanna Be a Pirate? Here’s How!”published by New American Library.
The holiday is celebrated by adults and kids alike. The Ann Arbor Public Library is hosting pirate story readings and a treasure hunt on Sept. 19. Stores like the Baker’s Nook in Saline offer pirate-themed cake decorations and pirate ship cake molds. And there are a number of pirate movies to watch to celebrate the holiday, including classics like the 1950’s version of “Treasure Island,” “Captain Blood,” and kids films like “The Goonies,” “Pippy Long Stocking,” “Legend of the Seven Seas” and “Treasure Planet.”
To get started talkin’ the talk, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy recommend using these five common pirate terms.
Avast — Stop and give attention. It can be used in a sense of surprise, “Whoa! Get a load of that!” when a beautiful woman walks into the room. “Avast! Check out the bowsprit on that fine beauty!” you might say.
Ahoy — “Hello!” Any inference beyond “Hello!” is simply vocal inflection and has nothing to do with the real meaning of the word.
Aye — “Why, yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did.”
Aye aye — “I’ll get right on that, sir, as soon as my break is over.” We’ve never heard any similarly colorful expressions for “no,” perhaps because pirates were the type you didn’t want to say no to.
Arr — This one is often confused with arrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. “Arr!” can mean “Yes,” “I agree,” “I’m happy,” “I’m enjoying this beer,” “My team is winning,” “My team is losing,” “I saw that television show, it sucked,” “I am here and alive,” and, “That was a clever remark you or I just made.” And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of “Arr!” It’s a little bit like the pirate version of “Oy,” that indispensable Yiddish word that has almost as many meanings as there are ways to pronounce it.
Other talking tips: Try dropping your g’s, and according to Ol’ Chumbucket, “Don’t use ‘me’ for the first person subjective. That’s for Talk Like a Caveman Day. In pirate talk, “me” can replace “my,” but not “I.”
And it helps to talk on the loud side. When all else fails, just say “Arr!” a lot. Many people also celebrate the holiday by dressing like a pirate too.
As for traditional pirate food for the holiday, Baur says that the food aboard pirate ships was pretty bad, consisting of salted beef, hard ships biscuits, more salted beef and burgoo, a kind of gruel made of flour and water, sometimes with chunks of meat floating in it.
“The advantage of being a pirate was they didn’t have to keep eating rotten food. If it got a little old, they’d capture another ship and take their food,” said Baur.
Pirates also ate a dish called salmagundi. The word means an incoherent whole, or a hodgepodge. It is a large salad with whatever the cook had on hand, comprising of cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers, dressed with oil, vinegar and spices. There is no standard recipe for the dish.
Many adult pirates celebrate the holiday with rum drinks.
www.talklikeapirate.com listed some 50 rum drink recipes. The rum tradition for pirates comes from gorg, a drink consumed by pirates that consisted of mostly water mixed with rum to add some taste and help to purify stagnant water.
The etymology of the word buccaneer comes from boucanier, a French hunter who smoked meats such as pork. Baur suggested that one translation means “eater of wild pig.” If there is a meal or food to be eaten on Talk Like a Pirate Day, it may be pork spareribs. “True story — we never let Sept. 19 pass without gnawing on a few pork ribs,” said Baur.