Some be real, some be fictional, and some be from Pittsburgh…
Avast! Pirates, buccaneers, corsairs, privateers…call them what you will, but the men (and women. . . But yeah, mostly men) who’ve terrorized the seven seas for centuries are among the most iconic, romantic figures in history. Of course, that’s only true with a degree of historical perspective. The Somali pirates off the horn of Africa seem like real assholes today, but maybe generations from now they’ll be celebrated like their rum-swilling forbears. Today, as we all know (right?) is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, so in honor of these scallywags, we’d like to celebrate the greatest pirates in history. . . and how to talk like them.
Sir Francis Drake
Before “El Draque” (The Dragon) helped save jolly ol’ England from the Spanish Armada in 1588, this swashbuckling seaman circumnavigated the globe (only the second to do so), raided the Spanish Main, captured 20 tons of gold and silver (which was subsequently buried, like all proper pirate treasure should be), and briefly settled in California. For all this, Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake (a "pirate" to Spaniards, but a "hero" to the British), who died having captured over $100 million in booty, and arguably the greatest nickname in the history of piracy (though Blackbeard might argue that.)
How to talk like Francis Drake: “The fleet of Spaniards is somewhat above a hundred sails, many great ships; but truly, I think not half of them men-of-war. Haste.”
Along with his elder brother Pierre, the French-born Lafitte was a true Pirate of the Caribbean, plying his trade from New Orleans to Mexico, Haiti to Nicaragua.Born in France…or Spain…or Haiti….or Westchester, NY (really?), the Lafittes ultimately settled in Louisiana, where they built up a smuggling empire, before joining the United States forces in their conflict with Britain during the War of 1812. Eventually, Lafitte established Galveston Island off Texas as the base of his operations, and was killed by Spanish forces in 1823...but not before a series of tall tales grew up around him, not unlike Robin Hood or Paul Bunyon. He definitely had some stones on him: according to lore, when the governor of Louisiana offered a $300 reward for Lafitte’s capture, the pirate responding by offering a $1000 reward for the governor’s capture. Today, you can raise a glass to the man at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans, allegedly the oldest bar in America.
How to talk like Jean Lafitte: "If you were thoroughly acquainted with the nature of my offenses, I should appear to you much less guilty, and still worthy to discharge the duties of a good citizen."
Born Edward Teach, the man known to history as Blackbeard was among the most fearsome pirates in history, terrorizing the West Indies and the Southeastern U.S. with his dark, dreadlocked beard festooned with smoking fuses. When he was killed by Captain Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy off the coast of North Carolina in 1788, his body was riddled with gunshot and saber wounds. Ian McShane portrayed Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and as much as we love McShane, you really shouldn’t see it.
How to talk like Blackbeard: “Let's jump on board, and cut them to pieces."
Sir Henry Morgan
Also know as: Captain Morgan. Also known as: the guy on this list most likely to get you drunk.
How to talk like Henry Morgan: "Got a little Captain in you?” (okay, that’s just the rum’s slogan, but still.)
Bartholomew Roberts was laboring on a slave ship when, in 1789, he was captured by (wait for it) PIRATES! That would have been quite a setback to most, but the man who would earn the name Black Bart went on to become the most successful pirate in history. Described in 1724’s the General History of Pyrates as “a tall black [i.e. dark complexioned] Man, near forty Years of Age...of good natural Parts, and personal Bravery, tho' he apply'd them to such wicked Purposes, as made them of no Commendation, frequently drinking 'Damn to him who ever lived to wear a Halter'.” Whatever that means. There’s also a theory that Black Bart was really a female transvestite, so make of that what you will.
How to talk like Black Bart: “In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto."
No explanation necessary.
How to talk like Keith Richards: