Saturday, September 15, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Talk Like a Pirate!

by Peggy Robin (a/k/a Red Jenny Bonny)

Only four more days to go until that amazing, annual Aargh-fest, Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19th.

If you've read this column more than a handful of times, you know I'm a more than a little obsessed with holidays -- especially if it's one of those creative, newly minted ones that gives you something quirky or offbeat to celebrate but doesn't require weeks of pre-holiday shopping or negotiating your way through floods of people trying to get somewhere on the eve of the holiday weekend, and doesn't lead shut down your mail deliveryl, school, or other useful government functions. In all these categories, Talk Like a Pirate Day is perfect. You really don't have to do anything at all for Talk Like a Pirate Day except be prepared to see kids, from pre-K through grad-school-age, running around wearing any or all of the elements of the traditional pirate costume, including: eyepatch, gold earring, tricorne hat,  thigh-high boots, skull-and-crosspbones press-on tattoo, and striped or puffy shirt. You should also expect to greet and/or be greeted with an "Ahoy there, matey" or be challenged with "Avast, ye scurvy dog!" -- and, on any occasion, the all-purpose "Aaaargh!"

This particular Talk Like a Pirate Day, hereinafter abbreviated as TLAP Day, happens to be the 10th anniversary of the holiday, although it actually dates back to a racquetball game in 1995 between two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers, who for no reason at all, started talking like pirates during the match. For six long, dark and obscure years, these two were the only ones to observe TLAP Day, but then in September of 2002, they managed to pique the interest of humor columnist Dave Barry, whose column about TLAP Day immediately set it on its unstoppable course toward celebration on calendars all corners of the globe and on all the ships at sea . (Click here for the Miami Herald column where it all began.) For more about the history, practice, and festivities of TLAP, I recommend the official holiday website

Now, assuming you're ready to join in the fun, here are some good ways to get started:

You see how easy it is to enjoy TLAP Day -- you hardly have to leave your keyboard. However, not everyone is a fan of this day. I do remember from a past TLAP Day hearing an argument from someone who objected to TLAP Day on the grounds that it glamorizes real criminals, thugs and murderers of old. That's certainly a question worthy of debate. My answer then, as now, is that TLAP Day is as unrelated to the real pirates who terrorized the high seas as Valentine's Day is to the real Saint Valentine (more about that here: TLAP is a celebration of *fictonal* or fantasy pirates -- the kind found in children's literature and movies, e.g., Stevenson's Treasure Island, J.M Barrie's Peter Pan, and, inescapably, the three billion dollar Disney franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. Still, the question of the appropriateness of turning actual crimes of history into amusement for present day kiddies can inject a needed element of solid, educational purpose into what would otherwise be a thoroughly frivolous endeavor. So I recommend, even as you shiver your timbers, batten down the hatches, and dance the hornpipe on a hogshead, you belay the buckling of swashes long enough to do a little research into the actual lives of real pirates, and come away each TLAP Day with a at least a smidgen of sound, historical knowledge.

And I have one more real benefit to put forth for Talk Like a Pirate Day: You can get one free glazed doughnut at the Krispy Kreme (the nearest one to us is at Dupont Circle, 1350 Connecticut Avneue NW if you talk like a pirate to the counter people. If you come in full pirate regalia, you get a free dozen!

Feast yer hearts out, me mateys!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.


  1. I feel more than a bit vindicated in my love of fun but trivial holidays when I see that President Obama has tweeted this photo of himself on Talk Like a Pirate Day:

  2. Aargh - that link was broken - but try this one: