September 19th: International “Talk like a Pirate Day” – Who Knew?

Our calendars are full of special weeks and days to memorialise, commemorate and bring attention to the plight of people with special needs, those underserved, forgotten, marginalised and needy. Think of the ‘Decade of the Brain’, ‘International Women’s Year, ‘Mental Health Week’ and ‘RUOK Day’. We celebrate the child, the volunteer, peace, the critic, the deaf – even prayer and fasting. We have days dedicated to mourning the dead, national days of surgery, international happiness and kissing days. 

But who knew about the ‘International Talk like a Pirate Day?

It’s not just a day dedicated to pirates, to remembering and celebrating piratehood, to the achievements of pirates, to remembering poor, suffering and displaced pirates, the seafaring adventures and booty quests, but a specific day emphasising a particular aspect of piratedom that warrants international attention for a full day each year: talking like a pirate.

Who knew?

I wake up and thank God that the announcer on public radio has made mention of this special day. I would hate to be the only person at the water cooler at work today not speaking pirate. I imagine what my work day will look like, more specifically what it will sound like. I will open meetings with an Acknowledgement of Country in a pirate accent, subtly altering it to commence with “Me hearties”. There will be a swashbuckling flourish in the tone of my emails and lunch at the local will be ordered, eaten and savoured in pirate tones. Hushed asides in afternoon meetings will be highlighted by note taking made in map form, accompanied by hearty, rib tickling laughter.

I turn on the TV to listen to the news, wondering what the events of the day and finance reports will sound like in Pirate Speak. Will I be able to take seriously the stock market report delivered in Pirate? Or will the accent merely point to the inequities of Capitalism, highlighting the fact that poor old Pirates might have missed out on letting their stockbroker know to purchase the latest share offering and hope that there isn’t a margin call that will leave them reeling, “to be sure, to be sure”? I’m disappointed that the national broadcaster has not seen fit to remind their newsreader to talk Pirate.

What’s on the news right now? A by-election, the international Rugby, local Real Estate sentiment, bush fires, car racing and the horrible usual assortment of human suffering and tragedy. Will Pirate Speak soften the blow of these harsh news stories, bring some perspective to the sometime excesses of sport and racing and bring to the level of ridiculous any reports within the finance sector?

I wonder what school will be like today – will the day be Pirate themed? Will all the lessons be given in Pirate? Will this be a big ask in Advanced Maths which might as well be spoken in Welsh, or Pirate for all the understanding I have of high school maths? Geography, Economics and Textiles would be my choice of subjects for Pirate-Inflected teaching today. I reckon there’ll be a few Johnny Depp inspired costumes on display too, something you can’t really get away with at work, although a well-placed scarf with some silver coin trim would do the trick…

I wonder what the Parliaments at national and state level will sound like? Will the important issues of the day be delivered in Pirate speak? There seems to be an opportunity here for the Australian Parliament who are currently discussing the position of the Speaker of the House at this very moment. It would be very sage and show great leadership if this position was given permission to speak in Pirate, at least for the day. Make them all look like potential plundering sea-faring robbers.

Of course the day seems to trivialise the reality of Pirates. The day seems to be a celebration of the fictitious, of the Pirates that populate legend, children’s stories, the imagination and movies. Think of the horrifying Long John Silver from Treasure Island, or The Pirates of Penzance or the Pirates of the Caribbean, moving into production of a fifth film.

However, Pirates are REAL. Famous pirates of history have included Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, who came from England and worked the Caribbean in the 1700’s, romanticised in the modern era. Wikipedia lists historical pirates, their dates, a chronicle of their lives and deeds right near put entries on the famous pirates of literature and the cinema. These include the Barbarossa Brothers, Captain Kidd, Henry Morgan, Calico Jack and Madam Cheng. With it being “Talk like Pirate Day” today and all, I want to devote at least part of my day to the cause by looking up Pirate histories and biographies and being moved by these as I reflect on their historical, economic and social realities.   

It’s not all swashbuckling and scurvy, after all. I’m not a historian and cannot do justice to the history of pirates and piracy here. There is a modern context to piracy of course that has absolutely nothing to do with accents but everything to do with power and resources and their inequitable distribution around the world – actually just like it always has. But the modern day pirates are not characterised so much by their romanticised and stereotypical accents and aged wind-powered sailing ships, but by high tech and high speed. Everything keeps up with the times and so too does piracy as swords and cannon are replaced with guns and grenades…

But back to The Day: there is a Wikipedia entry for the day, with a history (painful reading, much like this entry), a logo and a category called ‘Linguistic Background’ (pertinent here, so of course), References, Further Reading and External Links:

My wok here is done…

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