Avast, me hearties!

As I’m sure you’re aware, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a celebration of the pirate dialect found in films and books and based on West Country English. This idea came from Dave Barry, a journalist and writing in Miami, who mentioned the idea is his newspaper column in 2002 as a joke. Now, according to the official Talk Like A Pirate Day website, millions of people around the world celebrate this day by having pirate-themed parties and talking like pirates.

Why are pirates often depicted as speaking with approximations of West Country accents?

According to Wikipedia, many pirate accents are based on the one used on that of Robert Newton, a native of Dorset (part of the West Country) with a strong Dorset accent, who played Long John Silver in the 1950 film Treasure Island, and also appeared in the 1952 film Blackbeard the Pirate.

According to the Dialect Blog, during the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ – the late 17th and early 18th centuries – many English pirates came from Bristol, Devon and Cornwall, which are part of the West Country. Pirates are also given West Country accents in Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories.

This entry was posted in English, Language.

2 Responses to Avast, me hearties!

  1. David Eger says:

    In light of the pirate stories that have in the news in the last couple of years, we should be speaking Somali today.

  2. David Eger says:

    Whilst there may be real associations between pirates and the West Country, it might be worth noting that strongly rhotic accents, of a type similar to what we now call ‘West Country’, were, until the latter half of the C20th, heard across much of Southern England. So the ‘pirate’ accent could equally be from Hampshire, Sussex or Kent.

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