The Language of the Pirates
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The Language of the Pirates

How did the pirates really talk?

In this question we learned that pirates did not really talk like they are commonly portrayed. Given that they were professional sailors, they probably had a wide store of nautical jargon; but what would be an example of speech that would typify a pirate, such as Blackbeard? Would the captains and officers have notably different speech from the rest of the crew?

1.  Accent - Sotaque

What was the regional accent of the stereotypical 17th- and 18th-century pirate?

I think you mean, in films, why are all pirates from Bristol? Simply, because they arrrrr!

For many people, myself included, the archetypal pirates' accent was that popularised by Robert Newton, who appeared in more than 50 films, most notably as Long John Silver in Treasure Island, a role he reprised on TV in the mid-1950s.

Newton was born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, and spoke with a distinctive West Country accent. Aboard most English/British ships, there were significant numbers of Scots (William "Captain" Kidd), Irish (Walter Kennedy), and Welsh (Admiral Sir Henry Morgan) sailors. It seems, however, that the largest group of sailors came from the south-west of England (Edward Teach, AKA "Blackbeard" was a native of Bristol and Francis Drake was from Tavistock in Devon) than anywhere else, which is unsurprising, given the pre-eminence of Bristol as the main trading port with the West Indies. So Newton's accent may well have been historically accurate.

The accents must have been diverse. Reference to Black Bart Roberts and The Book of Welsh Pirates and Buccaneers, both by Terry Breverton, shows the birth places of captured pirates in the early 18th century to include Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Greece, Ghent, Liverpool, Antigua, Bristol, Canterbury, Whitby, York, Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Berwick, Jersey, the Isle of Man and London.

Additionally, substantial numbers of crew members were escaped slaves of African descent from Antigua, and seamen from Sierra Leone. All crew members were treated equally, regardless of race, and shared the spoils.

It's probable that the pirate William Dampier, born in 1651 at East Coker, spoke with a Somerset accent, at least in his early years. He possessed remarkable intellect, and while engaged in questionable buccaneering activities he studied the animals, birds, botany and weather systems encountered on his travels. Later, as a more respectable captain of a Royal Navy ship, he circumnavigated three times and reached Australia before Captain Cook. His early home still stands in East Coker, and a plaque in the church reads: "To the memory of William Dampier, Buccaneer, Explorer, Hydrographer."

2. Vocabulary

Ahoy is the pirate equivalent of a greeting.
It can also be used in relation to incoming ships.

The  Pirate says: "Ahoy mates!" Or "Ship ahoy!"

The pirate equivalent of "yes", aye can be used in a number is circumstances.
Captain says: "Will you bilge Pirate?"
Pirate says: "Aye, I will!"

Literally means "stop," but it is also a piratey exclamation of surprise.
Pirate says: "Avast! It be the black ship!"

"Arrr" can be used by a pirate in almost any context. It can be used to express a pirate's approval, as a verbal declaration of his or her anger or sometimes as simply a way to ensure everybody around knows you are a vicious bloodthirsty pirate.
1) Pirate says: "Arrr! This be good grog!"
2) Pirate says: "Arrr! Matey!
"Be" is commonly used by pirates in place of "am," "are," or "is." The past tense of "be" is "were" in singular and plural.

The bilge is the very lowest level of a ship and is usually filled with filthy water. One of the puzzles in the game requires pirates to pump this water back out into the sea (making the ship more buoyant and faster.) It is also used to mean nonsense.

Black Spotted
Marked for death. In Puzzle Pirates, black-spotted pirates cannot communicate with others for a certain amount of time.

Goods and property gotten by force or piracy.

To cheat or defraud. Hornswaggling is a common occurrence amongst such dishonest folk as pirates.

Abandoned on a deserted island or coast.


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