Abandon all hope, ye who enter here


September 16, 2011

It's going to be a chilly weekend, not one for the beach. Time to start thinking about a winter respite somewhere south of here – or at least warming up with a dram of rum.

Pirates who churned New England's waters 300 years ago knew as much about the weather and the coastline as today's meteorologists, following trade routes to capture and pillage ships attempting to sail with passengers and goods. Although their reign of terror lasted only a few decades, the mystique lives on – no doubt in part due to recent movies like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Don't be surprised if friends and coworkers make light of it on Monday, which is officially Talk Like a Pirate Day. Expect some swaggering and perhaps a glimpse of a costumed matey among the suits after work. At a minimum, you may want to watch the National Geographic channel's pirate-themed lineup that day.

If you aren't prepared with a tri-cornered hat, stolen midshipman's jacket, knee boots and bandana, perhaps you still have time to polish up your knowledge of sea shanties like this one, The Dead Horse Shanty, which describes the first month aboard ship, when the average sailor paid his passage to a debtor:

One month a rotten life we've led.
An' we say so, an' we hope so!
While you lay on y'er feather bed.
Oh! Poor old Man!

But now th' month is up, ol' turk.
An' we say so, an' we hope so!
Get up, ye swine, an' look for work.
Oh! Poor old Man!

If the nuances of the song are too much to remember, there's always the old fallback, A Pirate's Life for Me, which can be mumbled as long as the chorus is belted out lustily.

If song isn't your strong point, you may pepper conversation with some salty words and phrases, such as “if ye don't clean your room, arrrgh, ye will be keelhauled at dawn!” A helpful dictionary of nautical terms can be found on this page.

While it's fun to play pirate, we suggest you limit it to singing and dress-up, as there are real implications for taking it further. Just ask the guy who boarded the sailboat of a sleeping man in Salem Harbor last month. We believe he'll be looking for an attorney who takes dubloons.


Published: Sept. 16, 2011

Author: Allison O'Leary Murray


Word Count: 377

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Article Links

  1. New England's waters
  2. Pirate Day: September 19 - YouTube
  3. Dead Horse
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song: Yo Ho Yo Ho ...
  5. Pirate Speak: How To Talk Like A Pirate - Talk ...
  6. Rennaisance Faire Pirate Terminology
  7. 403 - Forbidden