Thursday, September 18, 2008

On "Talk Like A Pirate Day," The Pen Is WAY Mightier Than The Sword

I was going to honor "Talk Like a Pirate Day" by writing a post filled with pirate puns and a whole lotta "blimeys," "me hearties," and "cats-o-nine-tails." But you know what? Everyone's going to be doing that.

So I decided to do something a little different: I'm going to celebrate "Talk Like a Pirate Day" by NOT talking like a pirate. Instead, I'm going to wax philosophic about the pirate-parlance phenomemon.

Now before you accuse me of being a poop-deck party pooper, let me assure the masses: I'm not trying to take the fun out of "Talk Like a Pirate Day." First of all, that would be impossible, since talking like a pirate is one of the simple pleasures of life. Secondly, I love "Talk Like a Pirate Day," and I have loved it for six years now.

Think about it: the one day out of the whole year when the letter R gets its due, when everyone's your matey, when you can pick up the phone and actually say "Ahoy!"-- what's not to love?

(Incidentally, according to Fred Worth's 1984 book Incredible Super Trivia, "Ahoy!" was, in fact, the original greeting for the telephone back in 1876, until inventor Thomas Edison very quickly instituted the rather bland-by-comparison "Hello." Who knew Edison was such a pirate-hater? )

And the jokes! My family and I have spent whole meals telling nothing but pirate jokes. ("Who's a pirate's favorite baseball player?" "Nomarrrrrrrr Garrrrrrrrciaparrrrrrrrra." "Where do all the Spanish-speaking pirates hail from?" "Arrrrrrrrrgentina.")

Finally, in terms of sheer entertainment value, “Talk Like a Pirate Day” absolutely eclipses almost all of its brethren in the “Talk Like a–” genre, including “Talk Like a Klingon Day,” “Talk Like Beaker Day,” and “Talk Like a Charlie Brown Teacher Day.” (Only “Talk Like Sean Connery Day” even comes remotely close.)

And yet, under the glitz, glamour and gutturalness of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” is a pretty inspiring story about the power of the written word.

I’m sure the TLAPD Faithful know the story, but for the newly-initiated, it bears repeating: many years ago, two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers were playing racquetball and, as they were wont to do, talking like pirates. They were having a jolly old time—so jolly, in fact, that they wanted everyone to have the opportunity to talk like pirates.

And just like that, "Talk Like a Pirate Day" was born. But, like a tattered treasure map, that only tells you half the story.

Indeed, the legend only truly grew after one of the two co-conspirators wrote a letter outlining the "Talk Like a Pirate Day" concept to syndicated columnist Dave Barry. Sufficiently hooked by the idea, Barry penned his now-famous column explaining "Talk Like a Pirate Day" to the land-lubbing masses.

So if we were chart the route of "Talk Like a Pirate Day": two guys come up with an idea in a racquetball court; they tell the idea to a columnist, who writes about it in a newspaper; that column sparks a revolution that spreads across the seven seas.

But you couldn’t have the revolution without the column. For as ingenious as Baur and Summers’ idea was, if it weren’t for Barry’s newspaper column, you and I wouldn’t be celebrating "Talk Like a Pirate Day" this September 19th.

Ultimately, the history of "Talk Like a Pirate Day" reminds us that just having a great idea isn’t enough. How many great ideas, after all, get locked up in our own private Davy Jones’ lockers, never seeing the light of day? You need to share your idea. You need to write it down and then send it out to the world, like one of those famed messages in a bottle.

And that’s perhaps the lasting lesson of "Talk Like a Pirate Day": that the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Or should I say: mightiarrrrrrrrr!


Adam said...

AHOY! Check out Talk Like A Pirate Day @ The Adventures of Monkey Boy, Baby Rebel!

Anonymous said...

Another great reference to "Ahoy" is a pop culture one that's subtle. When Montgomery Burns answers his phone, he always says "Ahoy, Ahoy."

Plus there's the great Peter Skarrrrrrrrrrrsgarrrrrrrrd skit from Saturrrrrrrrday Night live....

What's your favorite pirate movie rated?



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