Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Rum: How to Talk Like a Pirate
Posted by Sally Copus • September 11, 2015
First, let me say, “ANY PIRATE TALK IS BETTER THAN NONE!”
But if you want to talk like a true pirate, “Arrrrr, Matey!” just won’t cut it. I doubt any pirate ever said that. They were coarse, rough, dangerous men whose might was to be respected if only for their dauntless courage and daring. They knew death could come at any moment with the slice of a cutlass, a cannonball in the chest, or at the point of a sword. The fact that they were ruthless thieves, plunderers, murderers and worse is one of those facts we’ll just shove in the closet, because it messes with our brains and our story. So before we start, let’s beef up our history of the era with a few tepid facts. Then we can construct our own personal pirate talk for any occasion.
Pirates have been around since the beginning of time and will be as long as there’s an ocean or sea to sail on. But the swashbucklers we usually think of sailed the Caribbean in the late 1600’s and 1700’s. During that era, treasure flowed with the Gulfstream through that part of the Caribbean Sea known as “The Spanish Main,” including gold from the Peruvian Incas, diamonds and emeralds from mines that are now Columbian, and silver from mines of the Mexico area (today’s names). For a pirate, it was booty—free for the taking.
It is reported that over 2,500 pirate ships sailed those waters around the time I wrote about in my YA pirate book BlackHeart’s Legacy, the first book in The Odyssey of Jon Sinclair series. By then the Spaniards, Portuguese, and English, as well as some French and Italians, were prevalent, all wanting a share for the governments of their countries. The men on pirate ships were from all over the world. The native languages they spoke were mixed with the only language all of them understood—ship’s language: the pipe and flags. Thus was born a language containing ship parts and terms. This is not unlike our own American culture today, interspersed with technical computer/data terms.
Below are a few practice words so you’ll get the idea:
- Avast: “Stop that”; “Who goes there?”
- Belay that talk: “Shut up!”
- Bilge: foolish talk; water that seeps into sailing vessel (stinking); Note: In BlackHeart’s Legacy, Shark Scar called Captain BlackHeart a “bilge rat” (insult)
- Booty or swag: Loot
- Dance the hempen jig: Hang (rope made of hemp)
- Davy Jones’ Locker: Bottom of the sea
- Dead Man’s Chest: Coffin
- Dead men tell no tales: Standard pirate excuse for leaving no survivors
- Doubloon: A Spanish gold coin (In Captain BlackHeart’s day, it was equal to $641 of today’s money)
- Dungbie: Rear end; “Don’t be a dungbie”
- Flogging: Punishment by whipping with cane or cat-o-nines
- Gangway: “Get out of my way”
- Grog: Rum mixed with water
- Gun: Cannon
- Head: Toilet
- Jack Ketch: The Hangman; To dance with Jack Ketch is to hang
- Jolly Roger: Skull and Bones pirates’ flag
- Maroon: Victim left alone on deserted island with gun and shot; A proper “retirement for a captain hated by crew”—Pirate’s Code
- No Quarter: Surrender unacceptable—death!
- Pieces of Eight: A Spanish silver coin (sometimes cut in 8 equal pieces; sometimes coined)
- Poop Deck: Highest deck at the aft of large ship
- Rope’s end: Term for flogging; “Ye’ll meet the rope’s end for that, Jack man.
- Sail ho!: “I see a ship!”
- Sea Dog, or Salt: Experienced sailor
- Sick with the heat: Running a fever
Me: my = Me house, me flintlock; Ye: you =“Ye, Blaggard”; ‘e: he = “‘e’s got a pox, ‘e has.”
The pirate words/phrases above are enough words to get started with your Pirate Talk. Now, all you need is a party of friends by the pool, some nice victuals, libations, very broken English, incredibly bad grammar, a little slurred speech and you’ve got it—the makings of a great International Talk Like a Pirate Day party, which happens to be September 19!
See… wasn’t that easy? —CHEERS!
Who is Sally Copus?
Sally Copus is the author of the young adult fantasy fiction series The Odyssey of Jon Sinclair, including BlackHeart’s Legacy (Book 1) and Keys to Atlantis (Book 2). To learn more, you are invited to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.