International Talk Like a Pirate Day


Arr maties, summer is nearly over and I do believe I hear the distant sound of sea shanties and cannon fire. Shiver me timbers, could it be? Hoist the mizzenmast, swab the poop deck, and raise the jolly roger! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Tuesday, Sept. 19!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day began in 1995 as a joke between two landlubbers. John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers were playin’ racquetball when one o' them, "strained something and let out an `Arrrrr!!'”. According to Baur, "We realized we had something, that a national ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ was just what the world needed.” The swashbuckling celebration reached international waters in 2002 when the pair emailed humorist Dave Barry. "I have decided to throw my full support behind Talk Like a Pirate Day," Barry wrote in the Miami Herald. With Barry’s blessing, the nautical holiday spread across the Seven Seas.

The Cover of Treasure Island featuring three pirates.

But ye may be askin’ yerself, “Why is it that pirates talk the way that they do?” Well, matey, it goes back to Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1888 novel created the popular image of the pirate: peglegs, parrots, and pieces o’ eight. Historical pirates were seldom as colorful as Stevenson’s swashbucklers.

Aye, but what about the voice? When Walt Disney Productions made a movie out o’ Treasure Island in 1950, they cast English actor Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Newton exaggerated his West Country accent to give the pirate a properly seaworthy speech. Newton had a short career playin’ pirates, including Blackbeard, and each time he kept the West Country dialect.  Ever since, a West County accent has been the pirate's standard way o’ speakin’.

Robert Louis Stevenson probably would have approved o’ the “pirate voice.” After all, he based Long John Silver on the poet William Ernest Henley, a West Country native. In fact, England’s West Country was home to more than a few famous buccaneers, including Blackbeard. Maybe pirates really did talk that way. I can’t say for sure, but I’ll leave ye with this: British linguist David Crystal has made his life’s work studyin’ the way English people spoke in the Early Modern period. Take a listen’ to Crystal’s son Ben talkin’ with an Elizabethan English accent. Sound familiar? Maybe back then, every day was Talk Like a Pirate Day.

So, are ye ready to talk like a pirate? Be ye a landlubber or an ol’ salt, ye can practice yer pirate voice with these movies from that Alachua County Library District catalogue.

Black Sails

Jonathan E. Steinberg

1715. New Providence Island is a lawless territory, controlled by notorious pirate captains. The most feared is Captain Flint. As the British Navy returns to exterminate Flint and his crew, another side of him emerges. He allies himself with Eleanor Guthrie, daughter of the local kingpin, to ensure their survival. Many opponents stand in their way: rival captains; Eleanor's father; and John Silver, recently recruited onto Flint's crew, who constantly undermines his captain's agenda.


Steven Spielberg

A high-flying adventure from the magic of Steven Spielberg, Hook stars Robin Williams as a grown-up Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman as the infamous Captain Hook.

Muppet Treasure Island

Brian Henson

When young Billy comes to possess a secret treasure map, he sets sail with mild-mannered Capt. Smollet and a host of assorted Muppets and humans in search of the wealth. Their adventure is filled with songs, wacky humor, and irreverent silliness.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Peter Lord

After years of humiliation and failed attempts to win the Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain and his oddball crew go on a race to pillage the most booty. They soon cross paths with scientist Charles Darwin, who persuades the Captain that the crew's 'parrot,' Polly, could be the answer to the riches they are searching for.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Gore Verbinski

The roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow's idyllic pirate life capsizes after his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa, steals his ship, the Black Pearl, and later attacks the town of Port Royal. Captain Barbossa kidnaps the governor's beautiful daughter, Elizabeth. In a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl, Elizabeth's childhood friend Will Turner joins forces with Jack. What Will doesn't know is that a cursed treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live forever as the undead.

Treasure Island

Byron Haskin

Ahoy, mateys! Walt Disney's first live action feature vividly brings to life Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless tale of buccaneers and buried gold. Authentic locales, rich color photography, and musket-roaring action set the stage for the stouthearted heroics of young Jim Hawkins and the skullduggery of the wily, one-legged pirate Long John Silver.

Descriptions adapted from the publisher.
By Jesse on September 15, 2023