Avast! It be Talk like a Pirate Day, me hearties


SMALL PRINT:SHOULD YOU fall into either of the following minority groups: a) not being a career pirate or b) having a life, you may not be aware that September 19th is annual International Talk Like A Pirate Day (ITLAPD).

Espying a gap in the international days of observance market, Oregon natives John Baur and Mark Summers established ITLAPD in 1996. With much of the calendar clogged up with tedious observances like World Day of Peace and World Health Day – on which dignitaries deliver speeches and everybody nods and narrowly avoids dying of boredom – they chose Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday.

ITLAPD is perhaps unique among days of observance in owing its genesis to the infliction of a minor racquetball injury. The almost certainly apocryphal story goes that Baur and Summers were playing the game in June 1995 when one reacted to a fall with: “Aarrr!” Thus, in a moment akin to the apple not really falling on Newton’s head, the concept of International Talk Like A Pirate Day was born.

Then, as now, callously unrecognised by the UN, ITLAPD gained exponentially greater exposure in 2002 when American humourist Dave Barry, in a bid to edify the masses and/or a blind fit of desperation for material that day, covered it in his syndicated column.

Its sole purpose is to promote the arbitrary insertion of terms like “Aarrr”, “Avast!” and “Ahoy!” into ordinary conversation. All pirate-speak must be exclaimed. The pirates who inspired ITLAPD were nothing if not emphatic in their speech. This is possibly because they were reciting from film scripts.

Baur and Summers – who like to be called Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy respectively – point out that the day does not seek to glorify actual, barbarous, historical pirates. Rather, it is inspired by fictional pirates who have been sprinkled with the pixie dust of the motion picture industry.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is the seminal pirate-speak text, boasting liberal use of expressions such as “shiver me timbers” and a fixation on rum among the sea dogs.

Numerous events around the world will mark the day. In Portland, Oregon, Cap’n Slappy (né Summers) and others will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for most “pirates” gathered in one place. Copenhagen will host the RockPiraten festival, while in London, the National Maritime Museum holds a “Sign Like A Pirate” day for deaf visitors.

I did consider writing this entirely in pirate-speak. The temptation was mighty. But believe me, you’d have wanted to bludgeon me with a club by the middle of the third paragraph if I had. However, if you’re going to talk like a (fictional) pirate (from a film), you may as well do it right. Here, then, is a typical conversation translated to pirate-speak.

Landlubber 1: “Look, we’re out of milk.”

Landlubber 2: “Yes, the fridge is empty.”

Landlubber 1: “Could you get some from the shop?”

Landlubber 2: “Why don’t you get it?”

Pirate 1: “Avast! We be short on cow-grog, matey!” Pirate 2: “Aarrr! The ice-hole be bare as a bilge rat!”

Pirate 1: “Aarrr! Fetch it smartly, me hearty, from the cow-grog merchant.”

Pirate 2: “Aarrr! A barnacle in your bung hole! Aarrr!”

As of 2010, there is a host of major celebrities, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lady Gaga, Wayne Rooney and Bono, absolutely none of whom endorse International Talk Like A Pirate Day.– Seán Kenny