Today, you best get out your peg leg, eye patch and practice your “arrrr’s” … it’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day! What started as a joke among a handful of friends in 1995 has become a widely recognized fun-for-the-sake-of-fun celebration, thanks in large part to a column written by Dave Barry in 2002.
A few words of advice from various Internet resources in preparation for the day: growl and scowl often, making sure to slur words and gesticulate frequently while using pirate lingo. Embellish stories at will and, above all else, be loud and confident.
Pirates were certainly colorful characters and the scourge of the sea. During the centuries of Spanish exploration and colonization, “treasure fleets” made regular trips to the Americas to deliver merchandise and collect treasures and precious metals. As these cargos increased in size and value, so did the risk of capture and theft. Foreign navies, privateers (commissioned agents sent out against the enemies of states), and pirates threatened, attacked and plundered the ships of the treasure fleets. Privateers were licensed by a government to raid the ships of declared enemies and shared their gains with the licensor. Pirates were not loyal to any country and attacked indiscriminately for their own gain.
One of the most important books documenting pirates was “The Buccaneers of America,” written by Alexandre Exquemelin in 1678. He served as surgeon for nearly 10 years with various buccaneers and gives an eyewitness account of the daring deeds of French, Dutch and English pirates raiding Spanish ships and colonies in the Caribbean.
This item is one of many digitized materials from the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. You can get an up-close and personal look at this priceless volume here.
And, what would a pirate be without a song? Several types of sea shanties and sailors’ songs are found in the recorded collections of the Archive of Folk Culture in the Library’s American Folklife Center. In addition, recordings can be found in the Library’s American Memory collections.