Argh me hearties!
'T has coe upon me, yer olde mucker Horatio Tarbuckle to tell ye some truths and
half truths o' t' piratin vocabulary.
Firstly howe'er, I should poin' ou' tha' "vocabulary" is far too nancy an'
molly-coddlin' a word fer a pirate to use. Aye, that it be says I! After all,
we're not a bunch a lolly - gagging, royster - doistering, land - lubbing milk - sop
jackanapes be we? Nay! From now on, we shall refer to "vocablary" as "pirate
tongue." Not to be confused with the strange and terrible "piratey tongue" an
unfortunate disease of a sexual nature which many have contracted in Port Royal
and can be likened to a gout of the tongue.
So! Here be the basic rules o' pirate tongue;
- Use lot's o' apostrophes and cut the end off words more often than ye'd cut
the toes off a spanish governors. Remember, no sea-dog worth his salt would use
proper grammar or finish more than half o' his words. Ever. (that be unless he
be a themed pirate captain, and his theme be 'spruced up flouncer.' (There'll be
more on themed pirates in another chapter me hopes.))
- Never use the word "is." "Be" is a rightly acceptable replacement in all but
the most la-di-da of company (for example, when cutting off the toes of Spanish
governors. In this case, instead of saying "Ye be going to tell us where yer
treasure haul is or ye be walking funny from now on."
Say; "Ye is going to tell us where yer treasure haul is or ye is walking funny
from now on."
- The words "Argh!" "land-lubber" "keel-haul" "plank" "swab" "rum" "scurvy"
"dubloon" and "poop-deck" can ne'er be overused. They be like hot rum whilst
sailing round the 'orn to ye.
- Replace the letter "o" with the letter "e" in almost all circumstances. So
that; " You're a nice lookin' wench, care for a little run around with your old friend Horatio Tarbuckle?"
"Yer a nice leekin' wonch, care fer a wee run a arend with yer eld friond
(Hmmm... I'm not sure that turned out quite right. Well, ye'll work out when
it's appropriate. Be intuitive ye scallywags!)
- Talk in the third person indescriminately. It strikes fear into the hearts of
all but the hardiest of Jack Tars.
Fer example; "I think it's time I buried my cutlass for good."
"Horatio Tarbuckle be thinkin' it's time he be buryin' 'is
cutlass fer good... In yer belly!"
See, 'tis far more blood-curdlin' this way. (although the threat of stabbing may
have a tot to do with that.)
- And lastly, "i" before "e" except after "c." Pretty obvious really.
So there ye have it! The basic rules of yon Pirate tongue, but here be some
genuine facts on t' matter:
The pirate tongue, as we know it through films and literature is actually just
an adaptation of the Cornish accent of south-western Britain. As many sailors of
the golden age of Caribbean piracy came from this area (as did the famous
Killigrew family of Pendennis castle - an aristocratic family who all, men and
women, pirated throughout the Atlantic during the 16th century) , this became
the most common of ship-board English accents, except perhaps for London
English. The Cornish is far more colourful however and so became the base for
that eminently famous fictional pirate 'Long John Silver' of Robert Louis
Stevenson's Treasure Island - The most influential work of pirate fiction bar
none. This strong and salty accent survives in Cornwall even today, and if you
are to enter a pub of the region frequented by locals you can close your eyes
and imagine you are surrounded by the fiercest of pirates. It can be as if
Captain Blackbeard himself is talking at the table next to you. About last
nights episode of Neighbours.
And now for a quick definition of different names for pirates;
Pirate; Was and is anyone who robs and plunders on the sea.
Buccaneer; derived from the French word "boucanier" which is a derivation of
barbecue and originally was the name of the wild French hunters in western
Hispaniola (Haiti). They were called "boucanier" as this was the open fire on
which they cooked their meat and cured the animal's hides for rough clothing.
The Spanish later drove the "boucanier" off Hispaniola to the small off shore
island Tortuga, situated on the romantically named Windward Passage - a major
route for Spanish merchant and treasure ships. Here the French were joined by
English, Dutch, escaped African slaves, American Indians and anyone else who had
a grudge against the Spanish, including the famous English privateer Sir Henry
Morgan. To English tongue these men were called buccaneers or 'The Brethren of
the Coast.' A loose confederation of pirates which Sir Henry Morgan later became
'"Admiral" of. From Tortuga the buccaneer's raided merchant ships, especially
those of the Spanish as they tried to make their way through the tight Windward
Passage. The pirates made Tortuga into a fortress and their raids became ever
increasingly audacious. The last major buccaneer raid was the invasion of
Panama, led by Sir Henry Morgan, which entirely destroyed the large Spanish
port. By the late 1600's however, the buccaneers as an organised pirate force
were dying out.
Privateers; Ships and the crews of those given 'Letters of Marque.' Which
countries offered to private captains giving them the right to attack the ships
and ports of a specific nation which they are at war with. Privateers could
claim that they were not mere pirates as they were carrying out their raids as
acts of war against an enemy nation. They did however still keep most of the
booty they had plundered.
Corsairs; From the Spanish 'Corsarios' and referring to any and all pirates and
privateers who were not Spanish.
Filibusters; From the French 'filibustier' and referring to any and all pirates
and privateers who were not French.
Sea Rovers; From the Dutch 'Zee-Roovers' and referring to any and all pirates
and privateers who were not Dutch.
So! There ye have it! A whole hold full o' piratey crap. Here be a comprehension
test to check ye've understood fully.
- (Simply fill in the blanks to complete ye sentence) "Avast y..... scurvy
(and agin) "Hoist m... main-...!"
(Change this sentence to appropriate pirate tongue) "Hello John, I believe
you and I should have a cup of tea."
(change this sentence to the third person as if Scurvy Pete were saying it)
"I'm going to rip yer heart out of your chest unless ye tell me where yer booty
(What is the punchline to this pirate joke?) "What do a pirate wear under 'is
So! Me hopes you've had a bellyful o' this! An' I hope you'll all be talkin' the
talk or it's keel haulin' ye be wantin'! That or my name not be...
---Article by Pirate Tarnbuckle
Pirate Tarbuckle is one of
the few exceptional, pirates
who already obtained the title
of "Scurvy Sea Dog" without outside
training. He is traveling pirate
professor of Pirate Speak who
frequently likes to terrorize her
Answers to ye quiz!
Avast ye scurvy sea-dog!
Hoist me mainsail!
Ho there Toothless Jack! Me an' ye should get together and rum ourselves til
were pissin' our britches!
Scurvy Pete's gonna rip yer heart outo' yer chest unless ye tell him where
your booty be!
Plunderpants! Argh har-har-har!