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Sep 17

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Ahoy Thar, Me Hearties!

Don’t be surprised if friends, or even strangers, greet you that way on September 19 (or on September 22 in Australia). Just smile back, and repeat the greeting to them, and to anyone else you meet. It’s contagious.

Normally-sane people in more than 40 countries will celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, a unique annual event that began almost accidentally one day in 1995, when two Americans, John Baur and Mark Summers, were playing racquetball (a cross between handball and squash).

John Baur tells the story on his “original and only official website”:

On this day, for reasons we still don’t quite understand, we started giving our encouragement in pirate slang. Mark suspects one of us might have been reaching for a low shot that, by pure chance, might have come off the wall at an unusually high rate of speed, and strained something best left unstrained. “Arrr!,” he might have said.

Who knows? It might have happened exactly that way.

Anyway, whoever let out the first “Arrr!” started something. One thing led to another. “That be a fine cannonade,” one said, to be followed by “Now watch as I fire a broadside straight into your yardarm!” and other such helpful phrases.

By the time our hour on the court was over, we realized that lapsing into pirate lingo had made the game more fun and the time pass more quickly. We decided then and there that what the world really needed was a new national holiday, Talk Like A Pirate Day…

Mark came up with September 19. That was and is his ex-wife’s birthday, and the only date he could readily recall that wasn’t taken up with something like Christmas or the Super Bowl or something.

For seven years they quietly celebrated International Talk Like a Pirate Day before inviting world-famous syndicated newspaper columnist Dave Barry to become official national spokesman for the event.

Barry wrote a column about it, and it grew legs that are still running madly around the globe. Every year, newspapers write about TLP Day, radio and TV hosts discuss it, and thousands (perhaps millions) of people whose only knowledge of pirates is restricted to memories of Captain Hook and Long John Silver put aside the problems and worries of the real world to indulge in comical pirate talk.

Baur and Summers’s friendly game of racquetball 11 years ago has boosted the funds of charities around the world. Several years ago, Baur wrote:

Talk Like a Pirate Day has been a HUGE success, far bigger than anything Mark and I ever imagined. We imagined we’d have our 15 minutes of fame. As my close personal friend Dave said, “This thing may be big. Maybe 20 minutes.” I am looking forward to the day when they put up a plaque at racquetball court No. 3 at the Albany YMCA, where Mark and I first came up with this idea.

As I told my daughter Millie’s fifth grade class this morning, this is one of the silliest things I’ve ever done, but it’s been fun, and we’ve just been riding the wave ever since.

Pirate talk is fast becoming a national craze in America, following the July 7 release of Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The film grossed $47 million on its opening weekend, with global box office receipts of more than $650 million. Kelloggs, Kodak, Volvo, MySpace, Visa and Venizon all hopped on to the piratical bandwagon, boosting the craze even more.

“Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was a strange and likable character, a sort of fey Keith Richards in pirate garb, good enough to receive an Oscar nod,” Frank Ahrens wrote in The Washington Post.

“Sparrow is the kind of a pirate that makes kids don eye patches at Halloween and grown men walk around the office growling, ‘Arrrr!’ Sparrow is a thief, but he is a clever scoundrel, a rapscallion, more likely to do harm to his standing in the pirate community than to an enemy.

“He is a thumbed nose in the face of British colonial authority — he sticks it to ye olde man. And advertisers know many of their customers imagine those traits in themselves. People (especially guys) can’t seem to get enough of pirates.”

There are enough websites dealing with the subject to sink a pirate ship. One of them tells how US soldiers stationed in South Korea two or three years ago caught the bug. Sergeant Will Wisner, who had later returned to the US Army base at Fort Knox in Kentucky reported:

While in Korea (six kilometres south of North Korea on the DMZ), we had an entire Cavalry Troop talking like pirates. One of my soldiers kept talking about it for weeks before Sep. 19th. Pretty soon, everyone in our Scout Platoon was anticipating the holiday by practicing their “pirate talk”.

Well, the day finally arrived and we were preparing for our Fall Gunnery at the Korean Training Center doing a testing phase called the BCPC. Nothing sounds more piraty than the letters BCPC spoken aloud with a heavy accent. Soon others outside of our platoon (namely people in charge) wanted to know exactly what the hell we were doing acting like fools with all the Arrrrs, and such. Didn’t take long for the explanation to make the rounds and soon our entire Cavalry Troop (C Troop, 4th Squadron 7th Cavalry Regiment GARRY OWEN!) was talking like pirates.

We killed many targets with 25 MM Bushmaster Autocanon sabot and high explosive rounds that holiday. Had the North Koreans invaded on that day, they wouldn’t have stood a chance. Congrats on your fun idea, and I’m eagerly awaiting Sunday now to get my soldiers here at Ft Knox to all “talk like a pirate” for the day.

Last year Baur told ABC interviewer Tim Jeanes, “Australia probably more than any other country – including the one I’m in right now, the United States – has just taken this to heart. Australians just don’t seem to be afraid to have fun.”

The official Australian website says:

ARR!! Talk Like a Pirate Day …continues to grow each year as more people become pirates for a day and join in the fun.

By registering as a crew member for the 2006 Talk Like a Pirate Day, you will be making a significant contribution to the lives of children coping with leukaemia.

So whether it’s “shiver me timbers” or “ahoy me hearties”, we want you to spend the day speaking like Long John Silver himself.

Enjoy the day and have some fun. Maybe you would like to organise a pirate themed event, such as a pirate cruise, a treasure hunt, golf/bowl day, race day, pirate dinner/ball or after work staff function.

Invite your friends/class mates/work colleagues to be pirate crew members and spend the day talking, thinking and even dressing like a pirate while pillaging, plundering and looting for donations of gold booty. Additional funds can be raised with raffles and the sale of pirate merchandise available from Childhood Cancer Support.

We read some of the messages posted on TLPD’s New York website describing last year’s celebrations in Australia. Here are a few extracts:

* Parramatta, New South Wales: The challenge: To venture up and down the main street of Parramatta during lunchtime in pirate garb… Most of the lunchtime crowd including the constabulary barely raised an eyebrow – mind you, people are pretty used to vagabonds, buccaneers and layabouts around here – Parramatta was a convict farm settlement which was established at the same time as Sydney Cove itself back in in 1788 … $A300 has been raised to date for the Fistula Aid fund. Who knows what we’ll get up to next year!? – Fearsom’ Bess.

* Melbourne, Victoria: The project team for EDS [Electronic Data Systems Corporation] in Melbourne is in full swing for International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Most people have dug into their wardrobes and have produced outfits befitting any prince of the high seas. A big cheerio and thank you for giving us an excuse to let the pirate within out for a day.” — First Mate Burly Breath

* Brisbane, Queensland: We held Talk Like a Pirate Day today (Friday 16th) and used it to raise money for the Childhood Cancer Support charity. Had a great day and raised plenty of gold and was inundated by the media (18 radio interviews.) Thanks for the great idea and we are looking forward to 2006. — Peter Wotherspoon (Peg Leg Pete).

* Brisbane, Queensland. The Teaching and Learning Services Social Events and Corporate Citizenry Group at Queensland University of Technology sponsored Talk Like A Pirate Day tea to raise money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Queensland.

* Hollywell, Queensland: The SYC [Southport Yacht Club] Hollywell Sailing Squadron hosted a swashbuckling ITLAPDay party … in Hollywell, promising pillagin’ and plunderin’, spittin’ and brawling, with prizes for Best Dressed Pirate, Best Dressed Wench, Best Pirate yarn (told in traditional pirate talk!), and The Best “Arrrrrrrr!”

* Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: The band Earthly Delights held a pirates costumed ball on Saturday September 17, at St Johns Hall, Constitution Avenue, Reid. Earthly Delights’s Web site describes it as “one of Australia’s most inventive and interactive folk-world-medieval music bands- and one with enormous cross generational appeal.”

* TransACT, a business employing about 3,000 workers, celebrated the day by raising money for Starlight Children’s Foundation. Anyone donating $5 or more to the cause got permission to talk and dress like a pirate on the job all day. The Starlight Children’s Foundation helps children with cancer.

* Mike Hettinger, who’s runnin’ for something-or-other in Canberra, threw a Talk Like a Pirate picnic and fundraiser on Springbank Island, Lake Burley-Griffin.

* New Zealand: “Well ye see me hearties, thar seems t’ be a lack o’ NZ pirates! Today on the 19th I, Captain Echo, decided to introduce this little shindig to our (Catholic girls) school. So I printed off yer pirate lingo and drafted it in several classrooms along with pictures of Captain Jack Sparrow. The teachers found it Jolly good Roger! More enthusiasm from the scurvy dogs than I’s expecting!” – Captain Echo.

FOOTNOTE. If you’d like to see a great list of pirate talk, words and phrases, visit The Pirate’s Realm website. It says ” In addition to plentiful cursing, exaggerations, blasphemies, fish tales and even bad grammar, pirate talk in parts resembled reading loudly from a nautical dictionary while gargling with rum.”

AAAHHHR! That’s the spirit, mateys!

Links

US http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html
How to talk like a pirate http://www.yarr.org.uk/talk/
Frequently asked questions http://www.talklikeapirate.com/faq.html
Australia http://www.talklikeapirateday.org/index.html
ABC Online http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2005/s1461331.htm
UK http://www.yarr.org.uk/
The Pirate’s Realm http://www.thepiratesrealm.com/pirate%20talk.html
Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow http://www.mickeynews.com/News/DisplayPressRelease.asp_Q_id_E_7256Pirates
This column is rated Arr http://www.stargazettenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060730/COLUMNIST20/607300321

Permanent link to this article: http://www.openwriting.com/archives/2006/09/ahoy_thar_me_he.php/