Yarrgh! What Be The Origins O’ Pirate Speak?

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Avast me hearties! Today, September 19th be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! We all know what “pirate speak” is, but most of us aren’t so foolish as to believe that pirates actually spoke with some sort of universal “pirate” accent or its accompanying lingo.

While some traditional terminology is undoubtedly historically accurate, the pop culture image of pirates such as Black Beard, Captain Kidd, François l’Olonnais or Henry Morgan is mostly the product of Hollywood.

Cover of "Long John Silver"Historically, pirates would have spoken whatever their native language happened to be and used the accent of their homes as well.

The current, popular stereotype was popularized following Robert Newton’s 1950s film portrayals of Long John Silver and has become the standard for pirate movies, games and narration ever since.

Newton, originally from Dorset, exaggerated his own accent by placing a lot of emphasis on his ‘r’ sound, hence the classic “Arrrr!” so frequently associated with the buccaneer lifestyle.

  

According to an article by The Virtual Linguist:

“The West Country accent is rhotic, which means that the ‘r’ is especially pronounced in words such as shiver, timbers, hearties”

So today, regardless of the historical accuracy of the rough, villainous accent and abominable grammar, please join us in celebrating International Talk Like A Pirate Day by salting your words with nautical nonsense and ballast banter.

Or you could always walk the plank…

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