Yessir, today, all across this great land of ours, what has been described as “a parody holiday and general nerdfest” is being celebrated by folks who need something to celebrate.
The pop-culture aficionados among you probably know how all this was set in motion by two (or maybe three) guys on an Oregon racquetball court in 1995, and how it got a boost from nationally syndicated columnist Dave Barry, who was looking for something to write about. (If you don’t know the story, go to www.talklikeapirate.com/about.html). Not that such details should matter, much less keep you from having a good time doing on this day what you would not do, could not do, or might not want to do, on any other day of the year.
I have noticed that teachers — male teachers, mostly — have taken to the day with particular zeal. And why not, since this gives them license to give students an appropriate “Arrrr” as they return less-than-stellar tests to those who didn’t study.
It also allows them (the teachers) to show them (the students) that they (the teachers) have a sense of whimsy not otherwise revealed by geeky conduct and attire, and that their stick-in-the-mud appearance is only a cover for the fun-guy they really are.
Students aren’t fooled, but they can play along — and do.
’Course, no one knows how pirates actually talked, so you can throw around “me hearties,” you can “ye” this and “ye” that and growl out the ever popular “Arrrrr,” and no one can criticize your diction and pronunciation.
You might also want to growl the suggestive “prepare to be boarded,” or brag about how you plan to “take the booty,” but I advise you to be careful when you banter those about. Say it to the wrong person (the boss’s wife, or the boss herself) and you might become an unemployment statistic.
Truth is, like everything else that is entertaining but inaccurate, all this pirate jargon and gibberish can be traced to Walt Disney. In Disney’s movie adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, Robert Newton created pirate-speak for his character Long John Silver. The same dialect popped up again as Captain Hook attempted to get the better of Peter Pan and most recently in the character of Captain Horatio Peter McCallister, who appeared on The Simpsons. Though McCallister’s seaman skills are lacking, his phraseology (“Yar, I don’t know what I’m doing”) is flawless.
As the popularity of Talk Like a Pirate Day spread, it began to pop up in all sorts of places. This year, libraries are making a big deal of it, pulling out all their books and movies about pirates. Films featuring Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling “Sea Hawk” and Johnny Depp’s campy “Captain Jack Sparrow” show you how far pirating has evolved over the years.
But wouldn’t you know it, no sooner had Talk Like a Pirate Day become popular, American capitalism sprung into action and set out to commercialize it. Catalogs that want to sell you costumes for Halloween have collected all their pirate paraphernalia and put it on the Internet to get a jump on the second biggest sales event of the year. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, happily, remains Sales Event No. 1; thus, the commercialization of Christmas remains secure as the top seasonal hot topic for preachers and pundits.
I can see where this is headed. Soon, Talk Like a Pirate Day will be absorbed into the Halloween-buying frenzy and become the opening of the All Hallows Eve shopping season, just like Thanksgiving has become to Christmas. Soon, we will walk into Wal-Mart the day after Labor Day, munching a Krispy Kreme doughnut and be greeted by shelves full of pirate-this and pirate-that while “Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum” plays on the intercom.
Munching a Krispy Kreme?
Yessir, for the great glazer has jumped onto the Talk Like a Pirate bandwagon before anyone else.
If you walk into a participating Krispy Kreme store today and talk like a pirate, employees there will give you an original glazed doughnut for free.
And if you come in dressed like a pirate, they will give you “a full dozen . . . of the yummy treats.”
Now, what connection does a glazed doughnut have with talking and dressing like a pirate?
I suspect the folks in the Krispy Kreme marketing department figured that anyone who will go this far to get a free doughnut will probably buy coffee.
And another doughnut.
Chocolate. With sprinkles.
A doughnut addict is born.
Capitalism triumphs again.
Enjoy the day.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is retired Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and an editorial writer and columnist for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.