June 17, 2008

#01-123: Talk Like a Pirate - Part II

a man in a tricornered hat and dreadlocks stands in an unusual pose, arms apart, with a smug smile on his face a la Captain Jack Sparrow
A Jack Sparrow imitator

Note: Another ship, another pile o' plunder, as we continue learnin' the tongue o' Long John Silver and his mates!

Get Ready: Have you ever watched a pirated movie, listened to pirated music, and so on?

Ahoy there! In Lesson #01-122, we started looking at words and expressions allegedly used by pirates. These are the pirates in books and movies, not real pirates, of course.

But what is (or was) a pirate? These days, the term "piracy" most often refers to information piracy, or the infringement of copyrights, patents, etc.

But until the "Information Age" arrived, the usual idea of a pirate was a man (or sometimes woman) who sailed a ship in order to steal goods from other ships. In the Pirates of the Caribbean films, the original focus is on pirates who interfered with shipping coming out of the Americas.

Again, the terms below are mainly from literature. But let's pretend, for a moment, that this is how pirates really spoke...

Bilge rat: Pirates are famous for insulting others (see "scurvy" below). They would often call their "mates" some kind of animals--and not sweet fluffy animals, either. The bilge is the lower part of a ship, usually filled with stinky water. A rat who lived there would be pretty unlovable. So to be called a "bilge rat" probably wouldn't make most people happy. But you must understand that such insulting names might be used in fun, or even as a term of endearment.

Grog: Technically, rum (a common product of the Caribbean) mixed with water. It was a common drink for sailors at sea. But it can refer to any alcoholic beverage. A joking friend might say, "Let's go get some grog."

Lubber: The word itself means a "big, clumsy, stupid person." Amongst pirates and other sailors, it meant a poor sailor. The worst sort of lubber was the "landlubber." This person had little or no experience at sea, having spent all his or her life on land.

Me hearty: My good friend, or my mate (or matey). It could also mean simply a brave or good person, one with a good heart. We most often hear the word these days as an adjective: a hearty meal, a hearty greeting, etc.

Scurvy: This was an illness caused by a lack of Vitamin C. (Vitamin C is called "ascorbic acid"; "scurvy" and "ascorbic" share a root in the word scorbutus, the Latin name for scurvy.) Ships could not carry fruits and vegetables on long voyages, so scurvy was a common problem, which could result in death. However, as used by the pirates, "scurvy" is an insulting adjective. It's bad to be a bilge rat, but really bad to be a scurvy bilge rat.

And that, me hearties, is a peek into the world of pirate-speak.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bilge rat
  2. fluffy
  3. grog
  4. infringement
  5. interfered with
  6. lubber
  7. me hearty
  8. piracy
  9. scurvy
  10. term of endearment

  1. an alcoholic drink, usually rum and water
  2. a clumsy person, and especially a poor sailor
  3. violating someone's rights,
  4. a disease that can be prevented by eating citrus fruit
  5. got in the way of; cut off
  6. words like "dear" and "sweetie"
  7. the act of stealing another's goods; these days, of copying someone's work without permission
  8. literally, and animal that lives in the lowest, stinkiest part of the ship; but often used as an insult
  9. soft and furry
  10. "old buddy"

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 17, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. i; 3. a; 4. c; 5. e; 6. b; 7. j; 8. g; 9. d; 10. f