• Written by Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University
The signature pirate voice is from the West Country in south-west of England. But why West Country? IMDb

There’s no shortage of special days throughout the year. Some — like International Literacy Day — speak to important issues in society. Others speak to our inner dag.

Today marks one of the daggier days, International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It marks the occasion when Americans John Baur (aka Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (aka Cap’n Slappy) first proclaimed in 1995 that everyone in the world should talk like a pirate.


Read more: The prosecution of pirates was a model for today's system of international justice


And so we thought we’d take the chance to answer a few pirate questions. Why do pirates say “arr”? What are timbers — and what happens when they get shivered?

Let’s get underway me language-loving ‘earties.

Who put the ‘arrr’ in pirate?

The modern-day fiction of pirate-speak emerged from pirate-themed amusement rides, books and films, especially the Disney classics like Treasure Island, the Pirates of the Caribbean series — and of course Australia’s own Captain Feathersword of the Wiggles fame.

You may already know how to talk like a pirate, but can you dance like one?

The signature pirate voice is West Country (or some version of it). But why West Country?

True, south-western England produced well-known pirates like “Black Sam” Bellamy and “Long Ben” Every, but famous pirates came from all over. Captain Kidd hailed from Scotland, Black Bart from Wales, William Burke from Ireland and Edward “Ned” Low from London.


Read more: Captain Kidd's 'treasure' found in Indian Ocean – but this is no haul in pirating terms


But it was Dorset-born Robert Newton – acclaimed actor and patron saint of Talk Like A Pirate Day – who set the fashion for pirate-speak. His portrayal of Long John Silver and Blackbeard in 1950s films set the gold standard for pirate voices on the screen – including the “arr”.

Together with the skull-and-crossbones logo, this accent built the pirate brand.

How pirate-speak preserves language

The books and movies that launched the pirate brand all those years ago have acted like artificial life support systems for expressions that otherwise would have long bitten dust.

Making many regular appearances on September 19 are expletives like “timbers”, “shiver me timbers” and “sash me timbers” – all nautical exclamations from the late 18th century.


Read more: Oi! We're not lazy yarners, so let’s kill the cringe and love our Aussie accent(s)


Timber was a slang term for “wooden leg” (“timber toe” meant “man with a wooden leg”). It was also a nautical expression for the pieces of wood making up the ribs or frames of a ship’s hull. The term “shiver” meant “to splinter” (by happy coincidence, English has another verb “shiver” with equally appropriate “quiver, tremble” senses).

There was undoubtedly a bit of word play going on with these mock oaths — the idea being something like “may my wooden leg (or ship) fly into small pieces!”. They are modelled along the lines of frightful curses like “Gorblimey” (a truncated version of “May God blind me”) and “Drat” or “Rats” (innocent sounding expressions until you realise they’re disguised forms of “God rot them”).

Acclaimed actor Robert Newton built the pirate brand in films like Treasure Island and Black Beard. IMDb

Like “(God) strike me dead” and “blow me down”, shiver me timbers was rare by the mid 1800s and is never encountered these days – except on September 19.

We see a similar pirate-specific support of nautical terms like “hearty” and “lubber”. When pirates say “me hearties”, they’re giving due respect to a person for bravery or other admirable qualities. “Hearty” was even another word for “sailor” from the 18th to the early 20th century.


Read more: 13 'ye olde' phrases that would be far better in the workplace


“Lubber” has been around since the 14th century and referred to a clumsy and idle person. In fact, before becoming part of sailor parlance, people spoke scathingly of the “abbey-lubber” (monks living in idleness or self-indulgence).

And from the 16th to the 19th centuries, we see the “lifting” hearties speaking of the “leaning” lubbers, especially those land-lubbers.

Tracing sea lingo from travel logs to sluiced gobs

Our knowledge of sea-faring lingo comes from early manuals like seamanship writer Samuel Sturmy’s Compleat Mariner (1669). Some of this nautical jargon made it into ordinary language and survived — “by and large”, “taken aback”, “underway” and “go by the board”.

The so-called golden age of piracy (late 17th and early 18th centuries) happened to coincide with the golden age of travel literature, and it became the fashion of the time for writers to pepper their memoirs and travelogues with nautical words. This was so much the case that philosopher George Campbell described the practice as a “source of darkness in composing”.

The Capture of the Pirate Blackbeard, 1718 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Blackbeard is one of the world’s most famous pirates. But did he really say ‘arrr’? Wikimedia commons, CC BY

Early slang dictionaries are another source of “tar phrases”, tar being an early appellation for a sailor. Early lexicographer Captain Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue groans with 18th century nautical gems like “shipshape” (orderly), “junk” (pieces of old rope and, later, “pieces of salted pork”), and lashings of terms for food and drink — “belly timber”, “slush and tack” (food), “grub-spoiler” (cook), “flash the hash” (to vomit), “grog” (rum and water), “sluice the gob” (to drink) are some of the success stories.

Those who see scruffy slang as a shortcoming of modern times might be surprised to encounter in Grose’s dictionary entries like “Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas”, which he defines as “a drunken man that pisses under the table into his companions’ shoes”.


Read more: Dinky-di Aussies: how slanguage helped form a new national identity


In fact, many current terms around drunkenness hail from this time: “slewed”, “(well) spliced”, “listing to starboard”, “three sheets to the wind”, “legless”, “keel over” and “guzzle-guts” (“one greedy of liquor”). Even the phrase “name your poison” as an invitation to drink was early sailing slang. It seems the expression “drunk as a sailor” is well founded.

So go ahead and enjoy International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It’s the one day when all around the English-speaking world, you can hear “shiver me timbers” and a flourishing of picaroon “arrrs”!

And if our short introduction has whet your appetite, check out the talk like a pirate website or use a pirate translator. These ‘ere translatin’ contrivances be fer turnin’ decent English into the lingo of sea-dogs. At this point we’ll sling our hook…

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-would-anyone-shiver-their-timbers-heres-how-pirate-words-arrr-preserving-old-language-121493

A Guide to Buy Home Appliances on Budget

A new home comes up with the need for new appliances, but where should one begin? Check our list that lets you find what you need first. Congratulations on getting your new dream home! If this is you...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Create A Legal Will Online

A will is an essential legal document that clearly states the desires of someone after the person passes away. With a will, you can successfully choose the beneficiaries of your properties and e...

News Company - avatar News Company

Roborock Launches Long Lasting Cordless Stick Vacuum

Leading technology and robotics company Roborock has launched the first cordless vacuum cleaner in the world to use a Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery. Roborock’s H6 uses a lightweight battery w...

Belinda Luby - avatar Belinda Luby

Why It’s A Good Idea to Plan for Your NDIS Meeting

For those wanting to find the supports they need for their disability, the NDIS is an excellent way to receive a tailored plan to help you manage your circumstances in the best way possible. Whe...

News Company - avatar News Company

Why writing down your thoughts is beneficial

In times of sadness, you often wish to write down everything coming in your mind. You think about different things to get out of sadness, like calling your beloved ones or going out. These ideas...

Paresh Patil - avatar Paresh Patil

Digital currency and online trading

First of all, digital currency refers to a currency that is traded as electronic data that does not have banknotes or coins. When it comes to data, you might wonder if you can send Bitcoin as if yo...

Thomas Carey - avatar Thomas Carey

AVOID THESE COMMON MISTAKES WHEN SENDING MONEY ONLINE

What if people saved just a few dollars on each of the thousands of money transactions people make every year? With the ongoing globalisation and widely available internet connection we tend to con...

News Company - avatar News Company

Discount Drug Stores introduce drive thru services for customers

With COVID-19 presenting more challenges than ever for customers needing to access pharmaceutical services, Discount Drug Stores has expanded its drive-thru option at select stores to provide a flex...

Red Havas - avatar Red Havas

Fun beginner hobbies (that need no skill)

When I was in my very early teens, I was convinced I was put on this planet to become the next Bruce Lee. After begging my parents for lessons, I eventually joined no less than four different ma...

Jennifer Martinez - avatar Jennifer Martinez

Viw Magazine

Taking A Look Into The World Of Single Dating

No-one dreams of being alone one day, there isn’t a little girl or boy hoping to never meet someone and living their lives with no-one to share it with. We all want that person we can run to, count on in tough times, and be the first one we t...

News Company - avatar News Company

Free Educational Apps for Students

Before improved technology, smartphones were viewed as bad habits in the lives of the students. No parent nor teachers wished their students to access phones because their education would be severely affected. However, with time, mobile app dev...

Elizabeth Horrell - avatar Elizabeth Horrell

Financial Frustration - 5 Things To Consider Before Touching Your Super After The COVID-19 Crash

Though your main focus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has likely been the health and welfare of your friends, family, and the community at large, you’ve probably also noticed that your super account has taken a hit. Additionally, the govern...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion