Why talk like a pirate - and how

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Why is this day different from all others?

Why do we need an International Talk Like a Pirate Day?

Make no mistake. We do. But it's a little hard to articulate why, especially when you've made the mistake of referring to your wife as a scurvy bilge rat and tried to order her back into the galley.

Talking like a pirate is fun. It's really that simple.

It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers. The best explanation came from a guy at a Cleveland radio station who interviewed us on the 2002 Talk Like a Pirate Day. He told us we were going to be buried by people asking for interviews because it was a "whimsical alternative" to all the serious things that were making the news so depressing.

In other words, silliness is the holiday's best selling point.

Before we go any further, there's something we need to be clear about. Pirates were and are bad people. Really reprehensible. Even the most casual exploration of the history of pirates (and believe us, casual is an accurate description of our research) leaves you hip deep in blood and barbarity. We recognize this, all right? We aren't for one minute suggesting that real, honest-to-God pirates were in any way, shape or form worth emulating.

So what is it exactly that we're celebrating here, if not pirates? What, you're wondering, is the point?

We're going to be painfully honest here, perhaps fatally so.

The point is, there is no point.

And that's what's fun about Talk Like a Pirate Day specifically, and talking like a pirate in general.

We're talking about the mere image of swaggering pirateness. And while this is a guys' guide, the comely wench will have fun talking like a pirate, too. It's powerful, yet harmless. Perhaps, dare we suggest it, the ultimate aphrodisiac. Try it!

When Sept. 19 rolls around and suddenly tens of thousands of people are saying "arrr" and "Weigh anchor or I'll give you a taste of the cap'n's daughter," it staggers us. They are talking like pirates -- not because two yahoos from the Northwestern United States told them to, but simply because it's fun.

The basics

Pirate lingo is rich and complicated, sort of like a good stew. There are several other sites that offer glossaries that are pretty good, and you can find some of them on our links page.

But if you just want a quick fix, a surface gloss, a "pirate patina," if you will, here are the five basic words that you cannot live without. Master them, and you can face Talk Like a Pirate Day with a smile on your face and a parrot on your shoulder, if that's your thing.

Ahoy! - "Hello!"

Avast! - Stop and give attention. It can be used in a sense of surprise, "Whoa! Get a load of that!" which today makes it more of a "Check it out" or "No way!" or "Get off!"

Aye! - "Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did."

Aye aye! - "I'll get right on that sir, as soon as my break is over."

Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

Advanced pirate lingo; or On beyond “Aarrr!”

Once you've mastered the basics, you're ready to start expanding your pirate vocabulary. Try these for starters

Beauty – The best possible pirate address for a woman. Always preceded by “me,” as in, “C’mere, me beauty,” or even, “me buxom beauty,” to one particularly well endowed. You’ll be surprised how effective this is.

Bilge rat – The bilge is the lowest level of the ship. It’s loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water. A bilge rat, then, is a rat that lives in the worst place on the ship. On TLAP Day – A lot of guy humor involves insulting your buddies to prove your friendship. It’s important that everyone understand you are smarter, more powerful and much luckier with the wenches than they are. Since bilge rat is a pretty dirty thing to call someone, by all means use it on your friends.

Bung hole – Victuals on a ship were stored in wooden casks. The stopper in the barrel is called the bung, and the hole is called the bung hole. That’s all. It sounds a lot worse, doesn’t it? On TLAP Day – When dinner is served you’ll make quite an impression when you say, “Well, me hearties, let’s see what crawled out of the bung hole.” That statement will be instantly followed by the sound of people putting down their utensils and pushing themselves away from the table. Great! More for you!

Grog – An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water, but in this context you could use it to refer to any alcoholic beverage other than beer, and we aren’t prepared to be picky about that, either. Call your beer grog if you want. We won’t stop you! Water aboard ship was stored for long periods in slimy wooden barrels, so you can see why rum was added to each sailor’s water ration – to kill the rancid taste. On TLAP Day – Drink up, me hearties! And call whatever you’re drinking grog if you want to. If some prissy pedant purses his lips and protests the word grog can only be used if drinking rum and water, not the Singapore Sling you’re holding, keelhaul him!

Hornpipe – Both a single-reeded musical instrument sailors often had aboard ship, and a spirited dance that sailors do. On TLAP Day – We are not big fans of the capering, it’s not our favorite art form, if you will, so we don’t have a lot to say on the subject, other than to observe that the common term for being filled with lust is “horny,” and hornpipe then has some comical possibilities. “Is that a hornpipe in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? Or both?”

Lubber – (or land lubber) This is the seaman’s version of land lover, mangled by typical pirate disregard for elocution. A lubber is someone who does not go to sea, who stays on the land. On TLAP Day – More likely than not, you are a lubber 364 days of the year. But not if you’re talking like a pirate! Then the word lubber becomes one of the more fierce weapons in your arsenal of piratical lingo. In a room where everyone is talking like pirates, lubber is ALWAYS an insult.

Smartly – Do something quickly. On TLAP Day “Smartly, me lass,” you might say when sending the bar maid off for another round. She will be so impressed she might well spit in your beer.

Top Ten Pickup lines for use on International Talk Like a Pirate Day

(We came up with these in an effort to interest The Other Dave (Letterman) in TLAPD. His staff liked 'em, but alas, his show was"dark" the week of Sept. 19.)

10 . Avast, me proud beauty! Wanna know why my Roger is so Jolly?

9. Have ya ever met a man with a real yardarm?

8. Come on up and see me urchins.

7. Yes, that is a hornpipe in my pocket and I am happy to see you.

6. I'd love to drop anchor in your lagoon.

5. Pardon me, but would ya mind if I fired me cannon through your porthole?

4. How'd you like to scrape the barnacles off of me rudder?

3. Ya know, darlin’, I’m 97 percent chum free.

2. Well blow me down?

And the number one pickup line for use on International Talk Like a Pirate Day is …

1. Prepare to be boarded.

Bonus pickup lines (when the ones above don't work, as they often won't)

They don’t call me Long John because my head is so big.

You’re drinking a Salty Dog? How’d you like to try the real thing?

Wanna shiver me timbers?

I’ve sailed the seven seas, and you’re the sleekest schooner I’ve ever sighted.

Brwaack! Polly want a cracker? … Oh, wait. That’s for Talk Like a PARROT Day.

That’s the finest pirate booty I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Let's get together and haul some keel.

That’s some treasure chest you’ve got there.

Top Ten Pickup Lines for the Lady Pirates

By popular demand ...

10. What are YOU doing here?

9. Is that a belayin' pin in yer britches, or are ye ... (this one is never completed)

8. Come show me how ye bury yer treasure, lad!

7. So, tell me, why do they call ye, "Cap'n Feathersword?"

6. That's quite a cutlass ye got thar, what ye need is a good scabbard!

5. Aye, I guarantee ye, I've had a twenty percent decrease in me "lice ratio!"

4. I've crushed seventeen men's skulls between me thighs!

3. C'mon, lad, shiver me timbers!

2. RAMMING SPEED!

...and the number one Female Pirate Pick-up Line:

1. You. Pants Off. Now!



For further study:

The Pirate Guys tell you how to do it in this podcast from One-Minute How-To.

A short course in pirate talk from Cap'n Slappy and Ol' Chumbucket their selfs. On YouTube.

How To Talk Like A Pirate -a more detailed instructional video in the finer points o' pirate grammar an' usage, from LoadingReadyRun.com

.Mp3 sound files demonstrating how to talk like a pirate in a variety of languages (courtesy of our fans at www.internationalservices.com - we can't vouch fer the accuracy o' the lingo, as we don't speak any o' these languages...)

An' how about some German pirate lingo?

How to Talk Like A French Pirate (courtesy of  Gus la Flibuste). (MS Word document)

A switch on the theme: The Two Chinese Characters and the Pinyin Pirate use pirate-talk to demonstrate how to pronounce the Chinese retroflex.

No time to memorize the lingo? Try our new, improved English-to-Pirate Translator!

An' fer more pirate words, try the Puzzle Pirates Vocabulary page