Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What You're Saying When You Talk Like a Pirate

It's that time again: International Talk Like a Pirate Day! In past years, I've helped you with the how. How to talk like a Jewish pirate, like numerous international pirates, and like assorted other pirates. There's not much more to cover on that front, so this year I'm skipping the how and giving you the what.

When you say the stereotypical pirate phrases, what are you actually saying? The phrases are old, and language gets muddied over time. Meanings get muddled, pronunciation mottled, and things stray a bit from their original intention.

I've done extensive research into pirate historic linguistic patterns (all without leaving my brain) and here's what I've found.

Avast, me hearties!
This is pirates being deep. In essence, it means "the world is a vast place, my friends." And of course, "hearties" comes from the fact that all pirates had those MOM heart tattoos.

Shiver me timbers!
The "er" in shiver is actually a corruption of "arrgh," which pirates were always interjecting into everything. Thus, that leaves us with "shiv" (a makeshift knife) and "me timbers" (my peg leg). It is akin to a challenge to other pirates. As in, "Go ahead, just try to stab my wooden leg."

Ya scurvy dogs!
This one just shows how mumbling and poor grammar can lead to misinterpretation. It's not "ya scurvy" but "you's curvy." And "You's curvy dogs" is roughly comparable to "You're sexy bitches." Just one of the many things a pirate captain would say to try to keep the crew's confidence up on those dreary long voyages at sea.

Walk the plank!
Um... yeah. This one's pretty much what you think.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!
An easy one. It's a call to the ship's first mate — on most vessels, the first mate was affectionately referred to as Yolanda, or Yo for short — to bring the captain another delicious Ho Ho and the aforementioned bottle of rum.

And there you have it. Now instead of going around today spouting these sayings in stereotypical fashion, you can sound like you really know what you're talking about.

Yarrrr welcome.


  1. Not sure my wife would appreciate me calling her a scurvy dog though!

    1. See, that's the thing. Men don't mind being called a sexy bitch, but women have some strange aversion to it... Best just stick to calling her a filthy bilge rat, then.

  2. What about "wench"? I'd prefer wench, myself, to scurvy dog or bilge rat. Those last 2 WILL get you stuck in the peg leg with a shiv (which we carry in our ample bosoms at all times).

    1. I suppose, but that would just be calling yourself a tool. After all, "wench" originated when a pirate with a speech impediment asked a tavern owner fif he could borrow a wrench, and not understanding the man, the owner waved at his waitresses and said, "Take your pick."