Chances are, when you were a kid, you wanted to grow up to be a pirate. I know I did. And there is a good reason for that – pirates get to do whatever they want. Kids almost never get to do what they want, unless they are very strange kids. “Mommy, would it be all right if I eat some carrots and beets and go to bed early?”
So obviously we’re talking about normal kids here, the kind that hate broccoli and spinach and just run some water on their toothbrushes instead of actually brushing their teeth. The kind of kids who will run America one day, which is probably what happened with Enron. Those are the kids who want to be pirates, because pirates never have to bathe, or eat cauliflower, or pick up their toys. Pirates just have fun.
Unfortunately, the pirate business has been in a slump ever since most of them were hung a couple of hundred years ago. Used to, you could go to just about any island in the Caribbean – Aruba, Haiti, France – and there were pirates all over. You couldn’t sling a cat without hitting a buccaneer. Then the Brits got peeved and started hanging people just for looting, pillaging, groging, and swashing buckles, and it took all the fun out of pirating. A lot of your best pirates got out of the game then, and it just hasn’t been the same since.
But then, pirating has become more popular since Johnny Depp got into the business in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. Captain Jack Sparrow and his ship, the Black Pearl, have a lot of stockbrokers and lawyers and janitors rethinking their respective career choices, remembering the dreams of their youth, and consequently making mistakes at work. Pirating has become acceptable again, at least in theory.
Which is why this Friday is a big day. September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. On Friday all those stockbrokers and lawyers and janitors, and everyone else who ever dreamed of being a pirate, gets a chance to realize their lifelong ambition. Sort of.
Talk Like a Pirate Day was started, more or less, by a couple of guys named John Baur and Mark Summers. Back about 1995 John and Mark were playing racquetball, and started talking to each other like pirates. Guys often do that, you know. That was a lot of fun, so then they decided it would be a good idea to create an international holiday where everyone talked like pirates. They chose Sept. 19 because it’s Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday. And if you think that doesn’t make any sense, you’re starting to get the picture.
John and Mark worked very hard to promote TLAPD for several years. They talked like pirates every Sept. 19, and encouraged some friends to talk like pirates, and . . . that’s about it. A couple of years they forgot about it completely until maybe Thanksgiving. So TLAPD got sort of a slow start.
Then, about 2002, they pitched their idea to Dave Barry, who became their international spokesperson. He wrote a column about it, and the holiday took off like a freight train. Freight trains start very slowly, of course. I have personally planned to write a column about it for the past several years, but I keep forgetting until about Thanksgiving.
But I’m excited about it this year, mostly because I remembered it ahead of time. Plus, I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick O’Brien lately, and you can’t do that without learning something about the old sailing ships, which were called Barques, or Mizzens, or maybe Starboards. I always get those confused. So, to help you learn to talk like a pirate this Friday, I’ve done some research and found some excellent pirate terms you can use to shiver your timbers and swash your buckles.
Bucko means friend. So does Matey. And Hearty. Pirates need lots of friends.
Belay means stop. Or maybe that’s Bilge. Or Avast. I get those mixed up.
Head is what you call the little pirate’s room. This was usually just a hole in the deck at the very front of the ship, and it was open to the sea. Pirates were not what you’d call staunch environmentalists. The Head has nothing to do with the Poop Deck.
The Poop Deck is the highest deck at the back of the ship, right above the Captain’s quarters. If you confuse the Poop Deck with the Head, the Captain is liable to make you Walk the Plank. That’s a bad thing, I think.
There are a lot of other pirate terms you need to know, but I’m out of space. Just remember to say “Arrrrr” a lot this Friday, and threaten to keelhaul anyone who tells you you sound like an idiot. But don’t really do it, because keelhauling is a bad thing. I think . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who has never forced anyone to walk the plank, unless they really deserved it. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org