International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Aaarh, mateys! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day and as a writer of space pirate fiction, I would be remiss if I didn’t mark the occasion. In fact, me hearties, I haven’t just written about space pirates, but airship pirates have appeared in my steampunk stories and the real life pirate, Grace O’Malley makes an appearance in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order.

According to Wikipedia, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was started by John Baur and Mark Summers (no relation that I know of) who proclaimed September 19 each year as the day when everyone in the world should talk like a pirate. Of course, when they say everyone should talk like a pirate, they mean everyone should talk like Robert Newton who played Long John Silver in Disney’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island.

I’m a big fan of Stevenson’s famous pirate novel and I love Newton’s iconic performance as Long John Silver, so I’m happy to celebrate the day. As it turns out, Robert Louis Stevenson and I share a birthday. So, I’ve long thought it appropriate that I should include pirates in my fiction. What’s more, I can see how pirates stir the imagination. despite the fact that they steal from others to make a living and often murder to do so. If you look into the history of piracy—particularly during piracy’s “golden age” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—you find that discipline on military and legitimate trading vessels was brutal and crews were paid almost nothing. On pirate ships, the crews had more of a voice in how things were run and the booty was split more evenly.

Aside from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I’m also a fan of Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock. In Matsumoto’s stories, Harlock is a pirate mostly in the sense that he turns his back on the corrupt and decadent “legitimate” government of Earth so he can fight to preserve the planet. He fights under the skull and crossbones flag because it’s a symbol that one should fight to the death for freedom.

When I write my pirates, I endeavor to present the same kinds of ideals. My pirates are people who feel disenfranchised and are trying to make the world a better place. It’s possible they’re misguided, but they are trying to make the world—or possibly the universe—a better place.

So, me hearties, when you talk like a pirate today, try to remember the best pirate ideals. If ye find yourself in possession of fine treasure, split it fairly with yer crewmates. If ye see the world as unjust, take a stand to make it a better place. When it’s all said and done, take a nip o’ rum and settle in with a good book. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto would be good choice. You could also seek out adventures I’ve written featuring Captain Ellison Firebrandt, the samurai Imagawa Masako, or Grace O’Malley. You can find them in the following books:

6 comments on “International Talk Like a Pirate Day

  1. I generally follow a self-imposed rule of not posting factual information online unless I double check it first. But as pirates aren’t known for following the rules, this time I won’t.

    If I recall correctly, when Robert Newton was trying to come up with a “pirate” voice, he turned to his memories of speech patterns he heard in Appalachia. Later, I believe American *The Tonight Show* host Jack Paar was the one who came up with the “Aaaaa” pirate sound which soon got changed to “Arrrrr.”

    Interestingly, years ago I saw an old video of a British theatrical company, one member of which was a then little known actor named Patrick Stewart (of course now known for playing Star Trek’s Captain Jon-Luc Picard). The actors talked about how we don’t know how people spoke in Elizabethan times as we don’t of course have any audio recordings.

    But they spoke of research in the older extant English pronunciations (as Newton heard in Appalachia) and in the rhymes used by Shakespeare and his contemplates (some of the “rhyming” words don’t rhyme now, a clue some of the words were pronounced differently.) Their thoughts were that Elizabethans likely did not speak like what we typically hear at Renaissance faires, but that they spoke more like, well, “pirates.”

    • As I understand, Newton’s accent was actually an exaggerated version of his native English west country farmer’s accent. That said, I have also heard the notion that people in certain parts of Appalachia speak in a way that’s much closer to the way Elizabethans spoke than most modern English people. I haven’t heard the specific Appalachian accent that people have mentioned in these discussions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were closer to an English country accent than the more refined city accent of today. So who knows, maybe Elizabethans did talk more like pirates! Arrr!

  2. Loved the way you wrote!!!

  3. rozepotpourri says:

    Um. . . “shiver me timbers?” 😀 😀

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