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Yarrrr! ‘Tis Talk Like a Pirate Day, Me Hearties!

Pirates. Eye patches. Eye care? Just go with it. Today’s post doesn’t have much to do with eye care or eye health, but “Talk Like a Pirate Day” is so fun, we couldn’t ignore it. 

Since 1995, Sept. 19 has, unofficially, been the day to dust off your best approximation of 16th to 17th century (stereotypical) pirate slang and work it into everyday conversation with abandon. But how did this silliest of national holidays begin? Gather ye ‘round and listen to me tale: 

The idea for a day dedicated to talking like a cinematic pirate was hatched, as all good ideas are, on a racquetball court. John Baur (aka Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (aka Cap’n Slappy) were playing a game when one of them was injured and cried out “Aaarrrr!” This outburst spurred the duo to imagine a day on which everyone would greet their fellows not with “Hey, how are you?” but with “Ahoy, maties!” 

While the idea was born on June 6, the two realized that a silly holiday would not coincide well with the anniversary of the Normandy landings, so they decided to make “Talk Like a Pirate Day” Sept. 19, as it was Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday, and he was unlikely to forget it. 

What started as an inside joke soon grew into a national phenomenon after Baur and Summers wrote to syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry, detailing the creation of the holiday. Coverage grew still further after Barry made an appearance in their “Drunken Sailor: Sing Along a-Go-Go video.” With the holiday now firmly established in pop-culture, the pair now sell books and t-shirts related to piratic linguistics on their website. 

But where did that stereotypical “pirate” voice originate? Wikipedia points back to English actor Robert Newton, terming him the “patron saint of Talk Like a Pirate Day.” Having portrayed pirates in several films including “Long John Silver,” “Blackbeard the Pirate,” and most notably “Treasure Island,” Newton’s style of speech is said to have been influenced by his upbringing. He was born in Dorset, England, and educated in Cornwall, making his West Country dialect the now go-to for would-be terrors of the high-seas. For a typical West Country denizen of Newton’s time, “Yarr!” would have translated easily to “Yes!” The West Country’s long history maritime industries and trade (and illegal smuggling) also helped seal the association. 

So, should ye happen to be stoppin’ by our offices on the 19th like, we kindly ask that ye forego the usual “Good morning,” and greet yer kindly staff with a hearty “Ahoy!” Otherwise, we may be forced to make ye walk the plank!

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