19 September, since 1995, the International #talklikeapirateday (ITLAPD) is celebrated in Tortuga and harbour pubs, especially inland harbour pubs, all over the world.
“You blasted wharf rat. Mutiny, will ee? You'll get what Flint gave the hands what went again' 'im. Them that died were the lucky ones!" (Robert Newton in “Long John Silver” 1954)
|Billy Bones from Stevenson's "Treasure Island" as imagined by N.C. Wyeth in 1911|
"Pour, O King, the pirate sherry", and lots of “Hurrahs”, recited with an endless flow of rolling West Country “rrr”s, actually pirate language is all Gilbert and Sullivan’s fault. And even though no “Arrr”s occur in “Pirates of Penzance”, it is quite possible that the Dorset man Robert Newton was a bit overdosed with said comic opera when he was a child. However, his West Country accent, a wee bit on the over exaggerated side in his role as Long John Silver in the 1950 film adaption of “Treasure Island”, became archetypical for our conception of how a pirate is supposed to talk. And credited with the first use of "Arrrrh, matey!", he became something of a patron saint for the “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”. How a pirate was supposed to look was long since established by the illustrator Howard Pyle and his “Book of Pirates” published in 1921. It had nothing to do, of course, with the real men and women who sailed the Caribbean, along the Spanish Main, the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Carolinas, preying on the shipping of Spain, France, the Dutch, merry old England and each other, Henry Morgan, Stede Bonnet, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, Captain Kidd and Blackbeard Teach or whatever they were called. But historical accuracy was the last thing John Baur (Ol' Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap'n Slappy) had in mind when they created the infamous #talklikeapirateday in remembrance of a memorable ballgame they played back in 1995 in Albany, Oregon, packed with spontaneous outburst of “Arrs” and “Avasts!” for no particular reason. The two jolly tars agreed to talk like a Disney pirate on one day of the year. Why they chose the birthday of Summers’ ex-wife of all things is a bit obscure, but the general idea is to communicate in a phoney pirate brogue for a day. What began as a private joke somehow caught the interest of the author and, back then, “Miami Herald’s” humour columnist Dave Barry in 2002 who gave Ol' Chumbucket’s and Cap'n Slappy’s fancy a bit of media coverage and the gag went viral. Twelve years later, “ITLAPD” is an official holiday for Pastafarians and has, so far, been recognised by the State of Michigan.
|N.C. Wyeth's front page illustration for "Treasure Island" (1911)|
What was seen in hindsight as a “Golden Age of Piracy”, a term invented during the late 19th century, covered a period of roughly 70 years between 1650 and 1720, when so-called “letters of marque” had been issued by governors of European holdings in the Caribbean, often nothing more than robber barons themselves, to privateers, legally allowing them to capture and plunder enemy shipping along the trade routes of the islands, the Spanish Main and later Florida and the Carolinas. And even if many local potentates didn’t actually acknowledge the Mother Countries’ decisions who was an enemy at the moment and who wasn’t, following a “no peace beyond the line” policy and growing rich on the privateers’ profits, the time came, when especially the British began to pursue a stronger course with their governors. During a peace with Spain, no "letter of marque” legitimated an attack on a Spanish merchantman anymore, and privateering became real piracy and pirates were actively hunted down by the European navies and the so-called “Golden Age” ended after the War of the Spanish Succession and Queen Anne’s War were over. Publications by various authors began to romanticise the image of the Golden Age’s seafaring cast, even though piracy remained a real threat to this day and is not romantic at all. However, as soon as Robert Louis Stevenson published “Treasure Island” in 1883, most of the images we cherish now as an integral part of pop culture became archetypical and a new Golden Age for pirates began, at least for the one-legged form, with eye patches, bearing a parrot on their shoulder, with a cutlass in one hand and a treasure map marked with an x in the other, talking in a funny brogue, as remote from history as probably only Disney movies can be.
Depicted below is an illustration by N.C. Wyeth from the Golden Age of Illustrations around 1920 called “Stand and Deliver”, using almost all of the clichés already established in his day.
|N.C. Wyeth: "Stand and Deliver" (1920)|
and the “Golden Age of Piracy” on