Arrr! It’s September 19 and that means it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It’s something of a parody holiday created in 1995 by John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy), who proclaimed September 19 as the day everyone should talk like a pirate. This seems like a fine idea to us at The Drunkard’s Almanac so for the occasion we’ll take rum, the spirit favored by pirates and Tiki enthusiasts, and mix up the Bumbo as Drink of the Day.
How did this happen? The creators explain that on June 6, 1995 they were playing racquetball and for reasons that remain unclear they lapsed into pirate lingo. September 19 was selected as a date that neither of them knew offhand to be occupied by another holiday. They happily trundled along observing the event with a few friends.
But in 2002 Ol’ Chumbucket learned Dave Barry’s email address. If you don’t know Dave Barry you should. He wrote a nationally syndicated column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005, plus any number of books, and is arguably the funniest American writer to ever live.
Thinking nothing would come of it, our protagonists contacted Mr. Barry and introduced the idea. They had a bit of correspondence and forgot about the whole thing until one day they learned that Barry had written the column. As he explained, “Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is: ‘Those individuals should be on medication.’ “
From that point forward it was game on. Now we should address proper ways to observe Talk Like a Pirate Day and then find an appropriate drink. Pirate talk is not just saying “yo-ho-ho.” Let’s start with an appropriate pirate name to use. You may draw inspiration from Ol’ Chumbucket or Capn’ Slappy as examples, but another method is to proceed as follows:
- Choose a color or malady suffered on ships.
- Choose an animal, preferably aquatic or on ship.
- Name a 17th-18th century trade, profession or object.
- String numbers 1, 2 and 3 together.
Now that you’ve decided on something like Green Cod Windlass or Scurvy Rat Cook you may proceed.
Next it’s a matter of adjusting speech. Let’s start with the basics. If your spouse asks you to do something you should reply “Aye aye, Captain” rather than “yes, dear.” “Arrr!” is a multipurpose word, good for yes, no, as an exclamation if you stub your toe or a general noise of acknowledgement. And make sure to say “yer” instead of “you” and substitute “me” for any time you would say “I” or “my.” That’ll get you started.
Some nautical insults are also useful. Favorites include bilge rat, landlubber, biscuit eater, bilge water and picaroon. It’s also appropriate to answer the phone with something like “Ahoy matey” or “Ahoy me hearty” rather than “hello.”
In terms of instructive examples of dialogue it’s hard to beat Mr. Barry’s example of two coworkers at the office, so we’ll quote it verbatim:
BOB: Hi. Mary.
MARY: Hi, Bob. Have you had a chance to look at the Fennerman contract?
BOB: Yes, and I have some suggestions.
MARY: OK, I’ll review them.
Now let’s see how this same conversation would sound on Talk Like a Pirate Day:
BOB: Avast, me beauty.
MARY: Avast, Bob. Is that a yardarm in your doubloons, or are you just glad to see me?
BOB: You are giving me the desire to haul some keel.
We now need an appropriate pirate drink. We covered Grog for Black Tot Day, but in the days of pirates Bumbo was actually a better drink so today it’s the Drink of the Day.
Grog was largely just watered-down rum, with a bit of lime if you got lucky. Bumbo itself is almost as simple as Grog, it’s key components being rum, water, sugar and nutmeg.
But pirates made their living by plundering, so they had access to a wide variety of ingredients that a Royal Navy swabbie could only dream of. Nutmeg was a typical addition, and at that point in history wars were fought over it as it was literally worth its weight in gold. Cinnamon was also commonly added, essentially creating spiced rum long before it became the fuel for many Florida Spring Break regrets.
Limes, of course, also fit the equation as does nearly any tropical fruit available at the nearest ransacked island or ship. Yes, surly pirates were probably the first to consume sweet, fruity drinks, but did so sans tiny paper umbrellas.
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker. Feel free to add modest amounts of Grenadine or other juice native to wherever your schooner has landed.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into ice-filled glass.