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How To Talk Like A Pirate


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 18, 2012

Comments (6)

Older male pirate with a gray beard holding his sword on a beach.September 19th marks International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Many people have been conversing like pirates on the 19th of September for a decade now...and this year, you can too!

Do you speak Pirate?

Learn how in today's VOX Daily!


Every September 19th, millions of people around the world try their hand at talking like a pirate. Given all of the pop culture references (thank you, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), there is no shortage of pirate talk and excitement built up around these scallywags, or as Gilbert and Sullivan put it in their operetta The Pirates of Penzance, they are not really pirates at all, but noblemen who have gone astray.

As the story goes, two guys started talking like pirates to each other when playing racquetball for no reason whatsoever on June 6, 1995. Within seven years, they remember to pitch columnist Dave Barry in 2002 and sure enough, their story idea was included in Barry's September 8th, 2002 column and Talk Like A Pirate Day was officially introduced to the public.

This day has become so big that even Facebook lets you change over your language preference to "Pirate" to mark the occasion.

How To Talk Like A Pirate

Whatever your opinion of pirates, trying to talk like them can be fun and for some of you, it can produce a pretty paycheck. Pirates are one of those go big or go home voices. You really have to get into it for a successful, believable read.

That being said, it takes more than attitude and a touch of scurvy to get the manner of speaking down.

For your convenience, I've included some tips that will help you hone your pirate voicing skills.

Proper Grammar, Be Ye Gone!

Remember what you learned in grammar school? You won't be needing it as a pirate. English teachers, ye beware! Forget about properly conjugating verbs and saying You, Your, and You're. Pirates say things like Ye, Yer, and Ya. They also never say "I" when referring to themselves. True to their self-centered natures, all pirates can think about is "Me!" You might hear phrases like "Got me a case o' the sniffles," "Yo ho, me hearties!" and "Got meself a fine parrot."

Be Loud

How many quiet pirates have you heard? Not many, I'd surmise. From boisterous singing in search of pirate booty to bellowing to their crew over the wave tossed sea, speaking loudly seems to be part of the package. As someone who works with their voice, you know what this could mean for your vocal folds and your microphone. With good mic technique (stand back, stand off axis, etc.) and proper use of your diaphragm you should be just fine, matey.

Use Hyperbole

Pirates tend to exaggerate and embellish. When you are speaking like a pirate, it's important to not only be big and bold with your vocalizations but to make big, bold statements. Everything seems to be teetering on the extreme. You can use hyperbole for emphasis or effect. The more outrageous your vocabulary in this department, the more pirate-like you will sound. You could also use hyperbole to communicate a figure of speech, not to be taken literally. "Ye be sleeping for an eternity," could be one statement.

Gesticulate Freely

We've talked about this before but when it comes to getting the voice going, and in this case a pirate voice, you might need to get your whole body involved. After all, your entire body is your instrument. Why limit it to just vocals? Remember voice-over talent George DelHoyo and how much he depends on his hands to deliver copy? Following in his footsteps could very well help you get that desired read. Moving around like a pirate can also help you to loosen up and release any physical tension you might have resulting in a better read.

Incorporate Exertion Sounds

Being a pirate take a lot of energy. This also may mean exertion noises including growling and grunting. They also fight a lot. Muttering is also something that pirates do well. Their thoughts, when kept to themselves, could be muttered under their breath. Just trying to stretch your creativity! Not to be forgotten, scowling will add a different dimension to your read and give it a darker, less friendly sound. Think the opposite of what a smile does when voicing a script.

A Wee Pirate Vocabulary

Here be some pirate-speak from Wiki-how (who sourced them from the Talk Like a Pirate official website) that you can use if you'd like to talk like a pirate on September 19th or any other day.

๏ Ahoy! - "Hello!"
๏ And ye may lay to that! - "You betcha!"
๏ Arrr! - This is often confused with "arrrrgh," which is, of course, the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrrr!" like "Aloha," means variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "My team is going to win it all," and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!
๏ Avast! - derived from "hold fast." Stop and give attention. This word, like many pirate words, has multiple meanings, so it can also can be used in place of, "Whoa! Get a load of that!" "Check it out," or "No way!" or "Get off!"
๏ Aye! - "Yes!"
๏ Aye aye! - "I understand what you said and I will carry out your order!"
๏ Be - "Am, is, are." As in "I (or Me) be goin' t' get more grog, he be goin' t' get more to drink, and they be goin' t' get more drink." This will also avoid confusion between "are" and "arrr" or "arrgh."
๏ Belay - To immediately cease or stop. Usually used in a disgusted context such as "Belay that landlubber talk!!"
๏ Hoist the Colors! - To raise the Pirate flag before attacking. Also a rallying cry for Pirates before they go into battle.
๏ Lubber - (or land lubber) Where a lubber is a poor seaman, a land lubber is an exceptionally ignorant seaman. [1] In a room where everyone is talking like pirates, lubber is always an insult.
๏ Motherload - refers to when the largest amount of booty is successfully located.
๏ Savvy - Okay or understand. As in, "Savvy?" meaning "Do you understand?"
๏ Shiver me timbers! - Pirate for "Well, I'll be" or "Is that so?" Originating from when a cannon ball hits a ship and the planking shatters into splinters.

Have You Developed A Pirate Voice?

If you've created a pirate voice for your voice acting toolkit or are participating in Talk Like A Pirate Day, we'd love to hear from you!

Readers reading this article via email can join the conversation on the live blog by clicking here.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

©iStockphoto.com/Jerry Koch

Related Topics: how to, Miami, reading


    Arrrrrrr! I be glad you recognize this important day. Aye it is a day celebrated by me hearties every year.

    Posted by:

      That was just plain Fun, thanks Stephanie! (And Happy Pirates Day).

      Posted by:
      • Matilda Novak
      • September 19, 2012 11:22 AM

        Thank you for the awesome article! We are going to do pirate talk on DoubleTalk radio tonight at www.doublekradio.com.
        One thing I must tell you is that Facebook would not allow me to change my language to pirate. Shiva me timbers, ya landlubber!

        Posted by:

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