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Shiver me timbers! What does it mean to talk like a pirate?

We asked — and Concordia rhetoric expert Laura Dunbar answered. NOTE: Pirattitude ahead...
September 16, 2016
By Laura Dunbar

Dear Concordia News Boss,

If Krispy Kreme riffs on it, you know it’s a true thing really happening: Monday, September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Pirate-talkers worldwide had hoped for a three-day July festival in Cleveland, but that slot was taken up this year by Proselytize Like a Clown-ers.

Careful you don’t go around pirate-talking in the wrong way. Ancient marinating people outside wedding halls won’t get you anything these days but a trip to the hoosegow to sleep it off on a cot and three hots.

And interesting, too, that Tuesday’s not Talk like a Wench day. Well, because, historically, wenches don’t talk, do they?

Not being able to talk when you can and want to is probably not the best start to a thumping good yarn. Think, also, of trajectories: there’s a petticoat’s hem between Captain Morgan’s Rum skiff-parties and a Hogarth lithograph.

Clammed-up’s not so good for donut sales, either.

I do, actually, count an old navy sailor, a real-life salt, among my closest. Among the things I’ve gleaned from him:

1.     There are more planes at the bottom of the sea than there are boats in the sky.

2.     Authoritarian captains like uniforms neat, rules complex and problems unsolved.

3.     Autocratic captains tolerate untidiness and encourage inventiveness.

4.     Shrimp boats are dangerous.

5.     So are pirates.

Thus, while Pirate Talking is meant to put a little spray on your bowsprits (oh, never mind), let’s agree that Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow in a movie is good fun, but Jack Sparrow playing Johnny Depp in divorce court might be another tale altogether.

Sometimes it’s hard to spy the real pirates at first, though sooner or later the hooks snag you.

Bewigged smooth talkers jolly-rogering shareholders, doing time in seaside brigs, and scarpering off across harbours to titledom in the birthplace of coming-aboard-without-permission end up looking like swabs at the end of day.

Treasure lust and crocodilian dreams.

That’s me, News Boss: I’ve taken my shots across a couple of bows. It’s turning into the wind and back out to sea for me.

And anyway, I know hardly any pirate words. Two, maybe: avast and ahoy. So, frigate.

Yours, etc.



Laura Dunbar teaches composition and rhetoric in the Department of English. Find out more about writing courses at Concordia.



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