Tomorrow, Sept. 19, is the 16th annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Founded in 1995 by a pair of Oregonians, John Baur and Mark Summers (who chose Sept. 19th because it was Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday), Talk Like a Pirate Day was a strictly local affair until John and Mark brought it to humor columnist Dave Barry’s attention in 2002. Since then the event has grown, with pirate parties and events planned from Nova Scotia to Kabul, all resounding with “Arrr!” and “Avast ye, matey!”
We all know what it means to talk like a pirate: mix two parts salty sailor talk with one part “arrr,” sprinkle with archaic pronouns, and serve hot. But where did those “Arrrs!” and “Avasts!” come from? How did the supposed jargon of a subculture of outright criminals (in law, pirates are regarded as hostis humani generis, or “enemies of all mankind”) turn into a goofy international language joke?