Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Talk Like a Pirate Day" Turns 10!!

Avast, me hearties: what follows may just be the most philosophical treatise ever on “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

Now, for those of you who have been marooned on a deserted island for the past decade, “Talk Like a Pirate Day” is an annual event which has been celebrated internationally every September 19th since 2002. And I was going to commemorate the historic tenth-anniversary of this great tradition by writing a piece filled with pirate puns and a whole lotta "blimeys" and "salty dogs" 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 ten years’ worth of pirate-parlance by NOT talking like a pirate.

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," because that would be impossible. Talking like a pirate, after all, is one of the simple pleasures of life.

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 Internet scuttlebutt, Alexander Graham Bell wanted "Ahoy!" to be the greeting for the telephone back in 1876, until Thomas Edison swept in and suggested the 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.")

Here's a new one: What’s a pirate’s favorite Carly Rae Jepsen song? “Call Me Matey,” of course.

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, when you strip away the glitz, glamour and gutturalness of “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” you end up with 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-roger 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 took off in 2002, 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 a seminal 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 the tenth-anniversary of "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 stashed away 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!

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