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Talk Like a Pirate Day is an international mock holiday held annually on September 19th during which people are urged to speak like a pirate. Started in 1995, the holiday first gained national attention after American author Dave Barry mentioned it in his Miami Herald newspaper column.
According to the Talk Like a Pirate Day website, the holiday was conceived by John Baur and Mark Summers on June 6th, 1995, while playing a game of racquetball. During the match, they began taunting each other in stereotypical pirate lingo like “Arrr” and “That be a fine cannonade.” At the end of the game, they decided they needed to make it an official day, choosing Summers’ ex-wife’s birthday because it was the only date without a holiday he could remember.
Meanwhile, pirate grunts “arrr” and “yarr” have been used since as early as 1934, when it was spoken by actor Lionel Barrymore in a film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. The stereotypical pirate accent stems from actor Robert Newton, who popularized the intonation through his portrayal of famous pirate characters like Long John Silver and Blackbeard in the 1950s.
Baur and Summers celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day by themselves until 2002, when Baur stumbled upon the email address for Pulitzer Prize winning humor columnist Dave Barry. After conversing over email, Barry published an article about the holiday in the Miami Herald on September 8th, 2002.
“So join the movement! On Sept. 19, do not answer the phone with ‘’hello.’’ Answer the phone with ‘’Ahoy me hearty!’’ If the caller objects that he is not a hearty, inform him that he is a scurvy dog (or, if the caller is female, a scurvy female dog) who will be walking the plank off the poop deck and winding up in Davy Jones’ locker, sleeping with the fishes.”
Shortly after Barry’s column was published, Baur and Summers were interviewed by radio stations across the US and overseas, including Australia and Ireland. On August 31st, 2003, Barry revisited the holiday while writing for the Daily News. On September 19th, NPR featured a guide on talking like a pirate during a segment of All Things Considered, which included tips from the official website.
On October 25th, 2007, YouTuber WhatYouOughtToKnow uploaded a video titled “It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day”, which provided tips for properly speaking like a pirate.
On September 18th, 2008, Baur and Summers were interviewed by the business blog Mixergy, attributing much of Talk Like a Pirate Day’s success to its low entry barrier in participation. On September 19th, 2009, “pirate day” became a trending topic on Twitter, and half of the top 10 topics were pirate-related. On September 19th, 2011, Google Maps launched a Pirate Day party locator. On September 19th, 2012, the social news site Reddit featured a pirate-themed alien mascot and replaced many of the words on the site with pirate slang (shown below).
On September 19th, 2012, during Talk Like a Pirate Day, US President Barack Obama made a tweet reading “Arrr you in?”, accompied with a picture of him being in discussion with a stereotypical pirate (shown below). The tweet was retweeted over 3000 times and favorited over 1000 times within the first 15 hours. Amongst the replies were also people unaware of Pirate Day who misconcepted the tweet with the issues regarding Somalian pirates.
Participants can consult the official pirate translator for tips on word choices. Facebook has enabled a feature allowing users to set their language to “English (Pirate).” Additional web applications used by participants include a Pirate Name Generator, a Pirate Ship Name Generator and a Pirate Personality Builder. Many MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars celebrate the holiday with special events. In the game Kingdom of Loathing, users can wear pirate costumes and defeat special pirate enemies. As of September 19th, 2013, the official Facebook group for “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” has over 120,000 likes.
Every September, search query volume for “Talk Like A Pirate Day” spikes, reaching the height of its popularity in 2006.
Miami Herald – Arrrrr! Talk like a pirate -- or prepare to be boarded