As the 19th of September was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, here is a brief history of how ‘pirate language’ came into place and some insight into common ‘pirate’ phrases:
Talk Like a Pirate Day was started in 1995 by John Baur and Mark Summers. Every year on September 19, buccaneering enthusiasts in the U.S., the UK, Australia, and Netherlands speak swashbuckly.
Just how does one speak like a pirate? Let’s start with the basics. Ahoy is a nautical expression used to attract the attention of persons at a distance, and may come from the Middle Dutch hoey (a greeting), and was apparently Alexander Graham Bell’s first choice for the telephone greeting. In addition, a hoy is a small vessel, usually sloop-rigged, employed in conveying passengers and goods from port to port on the coast.
Avast is a nautical command meaning “stop! hold! cease! stay!” and comes from the Middle Dutch hou vast, hold fast. A hearty is a seaman’s familiar form of address; a matey, is a fellow sailor. A sea dog is a sailor who has been long afloat, while a landlubber is a person who, from want of experience, is awkward or lubberly on board ship; a raw seaman; any one unused to the sea: a term of reproach or ridicule among sailors.
Aye is yes. Yar is the same as yarr and arr. Thar is there, land-ho is “Land is over there!” and yo-ho-ho is a nonce word, now associated with pirates and seafaring. Shiver me timbers, or for those more formal pirates, shiver my timbers, is an exclamation of surprise, disbelief or annoyance. My timbers! is a nautical oath attested from 1789.
To have your sea legs means to have the ability, when walking aboard a ship, to anticipate the motion of the deck so as to walk steadily without losing balance. To show a leg means to wake up and get out of bed.
Feeling thirsty? Head over to a shanty where from the hogshead, you can get yourself a nipperkin or noggin of rum, rumfustian, bumbo, or grog, a mixture of spirit and water served out to sailors.
While at sea, you may be limited to hardtack, a large, coarse, hard biscuit baked without salt and kiln-dried; salt horse (actually beef) also known as salt junk; lobscouse, a stew of hardtack and salt horse; and burgoo, boiled oatmeal seasoned with salt, butter, and sugar. As a result, unfortunately, you’ll probably get scurvy, a disease caused by insufficient intake of vitamin C, perhaps an alteration of scurfy, which comes from the Old Norse skyrbjugr, a swelling (bjugr) from drinking sour milk (skyr) on long sea voyages.