International Talk like a Pirate Day is here. Hold on to your peg legs and comical shoulder parrots, and let’s learn about some famous pirate phrases!
Shiver me timbers! Popularised by Long John Silver (although he was more grammatically correct than your average pirate and actually said “Shiver my timbers!”) this oath is common amongst fictional pirates although it’s debatable whether it was used in real life. Shiver may be used here to mean “break apart” or may refer to the shaking of the timbers when a ship is hit by a large wave.
Interrupting pirate wh…Arrrr!
It’s widely believed that the popular pirate exclamation arr! comes from the 1950 film version of Treasure Island when actor Robert Newton exaggerated his West Country accent for his portrayal of Long John Silver.
To be sent to Davey Jones’ locker is to be consigned to bottom of the ocean. The phrase is often used euphemistically to refer to drownings or shipwrecks. Davey Jones is thought of as the pirate’s devil and there are a number of different theories about who he was inspired by. Was Davey Jones a pirate on the Indian ocean? Or perhaps a short sighted sailor who had a habit of falling overboard? It could be a little more complex though, the 1898 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable claims the Davey comes from the Jamaican patois word duppy, meaning a malevolent spirit or ghost and that Jones comes from Jonah, the prophet who ended up in a whale. Others believe the Davey in question refers to St David, the patron saint of Wales.
Being a pirate is thirsty work so let’s splice the mainbrace! Splicing is a form of ropework where the strands of two ropes are partly untwisted and intertwined together and the mainbrace is the largest and heaviest of all the running rigging on a ship, and if it was damaged in battle it needed to be repaired immediately. Splicing the mainbrace was seen as one of the most arduous task aboard ship and warranted a drink as a reward, over time the phrase became synonymous with having a drink!
But, what to drink as your reward? Maybe some rum? The origins of the word rum are uncertain, some believe that it comes from the end of the Latin word saccharum, which means sugar. Others think it’s a shortened version of either rumbullion or rumbustion, Early Modern English slang words meaning an uproar or a rumpus, a rather telling observation of the effects of excess rum! We often think of grog as a pirate drink, but this was more of a favourite of the Navy, indeed it is thought to be named after Admiral Vernon’s nickname Old Grog. Pirates, however, were partial to a spot of bumbo, a mixture of rum, water, sugar and nutmeg.
Well, yo ho ho, me hearties, I think that’s enough pirate history to see you through the day! Let us know if you have any pirate facts or phrases that we’ve missed out!