Movie News & Reviews

On Talk Like a Pirate Day, it's time to go beyond 'aarrr, matey'


As International Talk Like a Pirate Day marks its 19th year on Thursday, it is time to take the excuse for silliness to another level.

It is no longer sufficient to throw out a half-hearted "Aarrr, matey." It's time for itinerant scallywags to go all in.

As the oddball "holiday" — marked every year on Sept. 19 — has gone global, there are more ways to celebrate locally. And, yes, before you ask, there is an app for that.

What was started by a couple of dudes from Oregon as a lesson in idiocy in 1995 has morphed into a universal phenom celebrated, according to the day's official site,, everywhere from the South Pole to the International Space Station. This year, according to the Talk Like a Pirate Facebook page, even a hostel in Moscow will be hoisting free glasses of rum in honor of linguistic piracy.

So, how did this mental scurvy spread? The originating duo, John Baur and Mark Summers, got a major assist from a 2002 column by Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry. It didn't hurt that in 2003, Johnny Depp appeared in the international hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, compelling men and women far and wide to unleash a bit of their inner Jack Sparrow.

But the day also might be a good excuse to be a little bit loud and off-color. (Has anyone ever heard of a soft-spoken, genteel pirate? Capt. Hook, nope. Capt. Jack, nope. Capt. Morgan, certainly not.)

Since most pirates sailed before the advent of recording devices, certainly before YouTube, can we ever really know what they sound like?

Well, yes.

Two University of Kentucky faculty members — linguist and dialectologist Jennifer Cramer and Andrew Byrd, a lecturer in English and linguistics — think that given time and using written records from real pirates they could probably put together a pretty good approximation of pirate speak.

But on the fly — pirates had to be nimble to survive — they came across the idea online that much of what is popularly known as pirate talk can be traced back to Disney.

Yep, the folks that perpetuated tropes of the ugly stepmother and always killing off at least one parent, hired an English actor named Robert Newtown, who played both Blackbeard and Long John Silver in Disney films in the 1950s. With Newtown having hailed from the West Country in England, some of the quirks of what we now think of as pirate speech seem to have roots in his native dialect.

As for the "aarrr," its origin will take some more digging.

But, like legions of others, the UK faculty members are all in when it comes to the idea of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

There are plenty of people who want to help you get into the game and, usually, celebrate themselves or their products.

To help people go beyond the now overused "aarrr, matey," has created an online language-learning program to expand your pirate vocabulary.

Brand manager Rachel Reardon said the idea sprang out of a brainstorming session, but the lessons include cultural notes and grammar lessons for pirate speech that are just like those offered with the 70 other languages the company teaches.

"It is difficult to get native speakers," she said.

But there was a linguist involved to pass along tips such as: In pirate, you never conjugate the verb "to be." The consultant also contributed such cultural notes as, pirates created their own democratic structure, even offering something close to disability compensation for those whose swashbuckling went bad.

You can go to to learn to talk like a pirate or search for a library near you that has the lessons available on the Web.

Reardon said Talk Like a Pirate Day has become kind of educational. Libraries across the country encourage reading pirate-themed books and hold pirate-themed events. In Kentucky, the Frazier History Museum in Louisville and the Oldham County and Whitley County public libraries have had events.

Fairwinds, my hearties, godspeed. OK, and "aarrr."


Don't stop at "aarrr, matey." Here are some more advanced pirate talking points:

Belay yer carousin': Stop messing around

Come about smartly, ye scallywags: Turn this ship around, you rascals.

All me duty to you, Cap'n: Hello, Captain.

Nay, ye bilge rats: No, you lowlifes.

Aarrr, me hearty, a fine gentleman of fortune be ye: My great friend, you are a great pirate

Bonus pirate joke: What do you call a pirate with two eyes and two legs? A rookie.



If your pirate thirst is not yet quenched, here are some other ways to celebrate the day:

Krispy Kreme: Go into any store and talk like a pirate to earn a free donut. Dress like a pirate and get a free dozen. (you can even download an eyepatch for a costume).

Long John Silver's: Get a free piece of fish when you talk like a pirate. Check out downloads to show you "Pirate-tude" at

Talk Like a Pirate Day on Facebook: Download songs, catch up on the latest giveaways, order T-shirts, mugs, bags and, of course, eyepatches.

Trip Lingo's pirate app: Download it to learn 30 pirate phrases.

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