If you and your kid have been saving up your “arrrghs” and “ahoys” all year for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, it might shiver ye timbers to know it’s an entirely made up occasion. According to their website, old Oregon buddies John Baur and Mark Summers made it up in 1995 while playing racquetball and ultimately went with September 19 because that was Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday — the one date he could recall that wasn’t Christmas or the Super Bowl. The rest is scallywag history. If learning this “holiday” is total BS makes you want to walk the plank, then abandon hope, all ye who enter here, because as Time Magazine points out, everything you know about talking like a pirate is as well.
In fact, teaching your kid pirate speak is basically a roundabout way of teaching them Disney history. In 1950, Walt Disney adapted the 1883 novel Treasure Island into his first movie with live actors (and perhaps scurvy). The film was centered around Long John Silver, played by actor Robert Newton who based the pirate talk on his own native British West Country dialect. Though it’s possible that pirates came from that area, it was more an artistic choice than a historical one. Historians like Colin Woodard cite Newton’s performance as the origin of the dialect, so sadly the holiday is rooted in pop culture, not pirate culture.
“Newton’s performance — full of ‘arrs,’ ‘shiver me timbers,’ and references to landlubbers — not only stole the show, it permanently shaped pop culture’s vision of how pirates looked, acted, and spoke,” Woodard told National Geographic. However, he also acknowledged that no one really knows what pirate speech patterns were like, and there’s no evidence that they weren’t yo-h0-hoing their way through history … when they weren’t busy looting, murdering, eating people’s hearts, and other accurate things. Maybe it’s best to stick to the movie version of these guys.
[H/T] Time Magazine