Raise the Jolly Roger

Avast, ye scurvy dogs – Talk Like a Pirate Day is less than 72 hours away and you’d best be prepared to mizzen your masts unless you want your scuppers scuttled (or something like that…).

The beloved, but as yet officially unrecognized, holiday was born way back in the lusty days of Queen Elizabeth II – roughly 1995.

That’s when two swashbuckling fellows – tentatively identified as John Baur and Mark Summers – decided to celebrate seafaring talk every Sept. 19 and make life a little saltier for all of us.

Remarkably enough, Talk Like a Pirate Day didn’t catch on right away. According to the pair’s Web site, talklikeapirate.com, it wasn’t until 2002 when national newspaper columnist Dave Barry became aware of the event and began writing about it.

This was great for Baur and Summers, for pirates, rum sellers, cutlass manufacturers and especially for newspaper reporters because, since Barry foolishly picked up the ball, the rest of us could kick back and concentrate on crawdad festivals and tractor pulls.

Unfortunately, Barry – the rosewater sailor – struck his colors and left the daily newspaper business a few years ago to pursue a career as an author or humorist or some such damn silly thing.

Now it’s up to the rest of us ink-stained wretches to hoist the Jolly Roger and remind everyone that Sept. 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day and you’d better look sharp or find yourself with a one-way ticket to Davy Jones’ locker.

It’s fun, it’s easy and it’ll get you a lot of respect as you swagger down the street with a cutlass in your hand and a parrot on your shoulder.

(OK, OK, you’ll never get any respect from the damned parrot, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Trust me on this.)

When Tuesday dawns, start the day right by awakening your wife with a resounding slap across the hindquarters and a hearty “Yo-ho-ho!”

Then polish off a pint of rum and strut off to work.

Greet everyone you meet with a robust “Ahoy, mate!” or – if they’re impeding your forward progress or otherwise taking the edge off your rum breakfast – “Avast, ya swab!”

Remember, this is the only day of the year when you can stroll into work two hours late reeking of rum and call your boss a scurvy bilge rat with absolutely no repercussions.

Really. I checked this out with an old boatswain’s mate at TJ’s Tavern.

If you’re a little weak on pirate jargon, you can refer to the aforementioned talklikeapirate.com Web site or, perhaps, “The Pirate Dictionary” (2005, Terry Breverton, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, La., $14.95, 189 Pages).


There you’ll find a variety of little-used pirate terms, such as “galleypepper” (the ashes that fall into pirates’ meals from the cook’s open fire) and “to have seen the French king” (to have gotten blind drunk).

You might also want to consider “flogging the monkey” (to swill the last drops of rum from a small cask) or, perhaps, to tell freeloading friends that “the captain is not at home” (meaning you’ve run out of money). Hey, that last one might even work on your scurvy landlord the next time you’re in port…

Originally published September 17, 2006