Bronwyn's Library Blog

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Avast me hearties!

The New York Times has run an article on the rash, or should I call it treasure-trove, of pirate books launched recently. I enjoyed it immensely, with its light-hearted and informative reviews of the books and of pirates in general. The theme that captured me, though, was piratical language. Referring to the creation of Long John Silver in the Disney version of Treasure Island, the pirate is described as the downscale pirate captain, with a parrot on one shoulder, a broad pseudo-Cornish accent and a vocabulary that leaned heavily on a single, highly expressive monosyllable: arrr.The article concedes "Arrr" may be pure fiction, but…

When the reviews move on to 'PIRATTITUDE!: SO YOU WANNA BE A PIRATE? HERE'S HOW!' by John Baur and Mark Summersand published by the New American Library, the suggestion of hilarity becomes full-blown. Here are the comments: First step: mastering the five A's. These are the building blocks of piratese, and they are, apparently in reverse order of importance, avast, ahoy, aye, aye-aye, and the amazingly flexible arrr, which, the authors claim, can mean, among many other things, "Yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is winning" or "My team is losing" and "I am here and alive."
Having absorbed the five A's, students can move along to the very useful mix-and-match guide to formulating pirate curses. By selecting an adjective from column A and affixing it to a noun from column B, the apprentice pirate can coin such terms of abuse as "barnacle-bottomed bilge monkey." Slappy and Chumbucket may be on to something here, another clue to the perennial appeal of the pirate. Unlike the tight-lipped tough guys and monosyllabic cowboys who let their guns do the talking, pirates, once they get past arrr, exploit the resources of the English language. Even their parrots have colourful vocabularies.

These authors are the ones responsible for the website and promotion of International Talk like a pirate day. I had discovered the site several years ago and thought I would promote it to teachers, until I went into it more deeply and found it not quite so suitable for school use, more’s the pity. Pirates is a wonderful theme to use in primary school.

The New York Times concludes with a review of Fan Tan, Marlon Brando’s contribution to the mix. This was also reviewed by the Ann Arbor District library bloggers. They also led me to a blog post on Brando’s writing of the book by Blogrunner. As far as I’m concerned these references to a strange tale are more of an incitement to read about Marlon Brando himself – now there’s a tale.


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