Created by two friends in 1995 as a joke, Talk Like a Pirate Day, on September 19, has become a beloved faux-holiday that lets everyone channel their inner Jack Sparrow.
Although real pirates likely didn’t use much of the vocabulary we now think of as “pirate lingo,” Talk Like a Pirate Day gives us a fun opportunity to break out of our routine, learn some history, and celebrate a bygone era.
So grab some grog(if you’re of drinking age), gather up some maties, and let your imagination take you on an adventure on the high seas!
When is Talk Like a Pirate Day 2021?
Put your eyepatch on and adopt cool pirate lingo on Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19.
History of Talk Like a Pirate Day
Talk Like a Pirate Day was born in 1995, when two friends from Oregon jokingly created the holiday while playing racquetball. They celebrated it quietly for a few years, sharing the joke with a small group of friends. One day in 2002, they wrote to humor columnist Dave Barry asking him to be the spokesperson for National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Amused by the idea, Barry agreed. He wrote a column about the holiday, giving it national prominence and spawning a wave of Talk Like a Pirate Day events and celebrations across the country.
From Treasure Island to Pirates of the Caribbean, pirates continue to capture our imagination. Romanticized in literature and film as rugged outlaws, pirates have been around in one form or another for hundreds of years. First recorded in Asian seas after the collapse of the Chinese Han dynasty in the 2nd century, piracy grew across the world with the increase in maritime technology and ocean commerce that happened after the discovery of the New World.
When we think of pirates, we commonly picture the so-called Golden Age of Piracy as described in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Published in 1883, the adventure novel was hugely influential in creating the pirate as a pop culture stereotype. “Treasure Island” gave us X-marked maps, shoulder-perched parrots, and buried treasure, motifs that continue to anchor any pirate-themed set.
Opened in 1967, Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride remains one of the park’s most popular attractions. The last attraction Walt worked on before his death, “Pirates” immerses visitors in the richly detailed world of a Caribbean port falling victim to plunder.
Unfortunately, most of the fun phrases we attribute to pirates are pure fiction. But that doesn’t need to keep you from enjoying this good-humored holiday with your friends!
Talk Like a Pirate Day timeline
The earliest recorded pirate attacks begin after China's Han Dynasty falls.
The increase in maritime trade and travel between Europe, the Americas, and Africa provided ample opportunities for Caribbean pirates.
Female pirate Ching Chih commands a fleet of 800 ships and more than 100,000 pirates.
After humorist Dave Barry wrote about the new fake holiday in his column, people nationwide started celebrating TLAP Day.
Traditions of the Day
On Talk Like a Pirate Day, the tradition is to walk, talk, and act like a pirate. Pirate lingo is actually really cool and it’s fun to adopt the lingo. There are many online sources and translators for brushing up on your ‘pirate talk’ or translating entire chunks of text to pirate language.
Some people go all out and host pirate parties where guests don pirate costumes. Popular food items for the day include cannonballs made out of cheese balls, cheese crackers as Polly crackers, hotdogs with octopus arms, hummus as quicksand dip, and, of course, fish.
By The Numbers
1883 – the year author Robert Louis Stevenson published the book “Treasure Island.”
1950 – the year when Disney released the film “Treasure Island,” which many pirate phrases originate from.
29 – the age at which America’s first female pirate, Rachel Wall, was hanged.
8 P.M. – the time after which lights and candles were put out on the ship, according to the Pirate Code of Conduct set by Captain Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts.
38 – the number of days that Julius Caesar was imprisoned and held captive by pirates.
$200 million – the amount a pirate crew once stole in a single plunder.
300 – the number of ships pirate Madame Ching Shih commanded.
20,000–40,000 – the number of men working under pirate Madame Ching Shih.
1717 – the year when Stede Bonnet, a retired British army major who owned a sugar plantation in Barbados, decided to become a pirate.
14 – the number of pirate attacks in Nigerian waters recorded as of March 2019.
Talk Like a Pirate Day FAQs
Did pirates really talk like that?
Sort of. Although some familiar words and phrases do come from authentic sailor jargon, most of what we consider “pirate language” can be attributed to Disney’s 1950 movie Treasure Island and Robert Newton’s performance as Long John Silver.
Do pirates still exist?
Yes, but on a much smaller scale than in previous centuries. However, modern-day pirates still occasionally attack ships passing through international shipping channels.
Are all pirates men?
No. Several famous women had successful careers as pirates, including Anne Bonney, Mary Read, and Ching Chih. At the height of her career, Ching Chih commanded a pirate fleet of over 100,000.
Talk Like a Pirate Day Activities
Talk like a pirate!
Brush up on your lingo using an online pirate glossary and try your hand at speaking like a pirate for the day.
Read up on real pirate history
Learn to separate truth from fiction by reading about the real historical pirates that terrorized the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or other parts of the world.
Attend a local pirate-themed event
You can find many pirate-themed events that celebrate pirate lore and culture; check local calendars to see if your town has one.
5 Fascinating Facts About Pirates Of The Caribbean
You can eat dinner inside
The Blue Bayou restaurant, located in the "swamp" at the start of the ride, offers a full menu of Creole cuisine.
Walt never got to see the ride open
Although he oversaw the design and construction of the ride, Walt Disney died three months before the ride opened to the public.
The fire effects were a little too realistic
Concerned with how real the fire effects inside the ride looked, Anaheim's fire chief asked Disney to install an automatic shutoff, triggered if a real fire broke out.
There might be a real human skull in the ride
While Disney has never confirmed the rumors, it's possible that one of the decorative skulls inside Pirates is part of a real human skeleton. This wouldn't be the first time a human corpse became part of a theme park attraction!
The ride is the longest in the park
The boat ride through the 1,838-foot world of Pirates of the Caribbean is almost 15 minutes long, making it the longest ride in the park.
Why We Love Talk Like a Pirate Day
It’s for everyone
Without a basis in any specific religion or ideology, Talk Like a Pirate Day encourages people of all ages and creeds to celebrate something silly together.
It gives us a chance to learn
Get in character, enjoy some grog, and read up on how piracy actually affected the New World and why pirates were so feared.
It’s an excuse to watch some great movies
Whether action-packed, funny, or both, pirate movies can be a great way to hang out with family on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Talk Like a Pirate Day dates