Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

A Pirate’s Life for Me: A Comprehensive Analysis of What it Means to “Talk Like a Pirate”

A Pirate’s Life for Me: A Comprehensive Analysis of What it Means to “Talk Like a Pirate”

Mallory Moore

Our society holds an image of pirates as using a very distinct “Pirate-Speak” dialect as well as possessing other cultural elements that we think of as being consistent throughout popular culture. Most people do not realize the wide range that exists in the language use and cultural patterns in the different portrayals of pirates in the media. Throughout this essay, I examine words and phrases such as “Ahoy”, “Avast”, and even “Shiver me timbers” to determine how the use of these “distinctively pirate” words and phrases has evolved throughout their history in popular culture. I go on to demonstrate the variation in the dialect through examples from a wide range of books, movies, television shows, and even forms of social media. The examples given of the different portrayals of pirate culture are then compared to show how much variation exists within the “Pirate-Speak” dialect and how drastically it has evolved from the 1800s to present day representations. The examples shown of the variations are used to examine whether this form of speech should even be considered a dialect as it is currently viewed. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the stereotypical view our society holds of the pirate culture and to bring light to the amount of variety that truly exists.


April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Mallory, this is a fascinating topic, one that I am excited to see presented as I don’t know, currently, of any research on a topic such as this. Today, especially within the media, as pirates are reflected in a great amount, this is the perfect time to present these findings. Along with your investigation of various portrayals of pirates in order to compare variation in “Pirate Speak”, it would be interesting to look into findings associated with the well-known portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow by Johnny Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and looking into pirate portrayals that came after his and whether portrayal of his character played a more recent role in shaping “Pirate Speak” and whether this portrayal pushed towards even greater stereotype.

    Comment by Crystal Mitchell | April 24, 2016 | Reply

  2. Great topic! I think we all have a predetermined idea of what pirates look like and sound like. From this we never think that “Pirate Speak” will have specific language and cultural patterns. Are the examples used for this paper recent or is it a range of examples from different times. It would be interesting to know if it occurs more in recent text or just occurs earlier in history.

    Comment by Kristy Estabalaya | April 25, 2016 | Reply

  3. This is a very interesting topic since I do not know much about it. It would be very interesting to see how the stereotypical influences of pirates has on “Pirate-Speak”. It may also be interesting to see how the use of “Pirate-Speak” differences if at all in movies, TV shows, and book

    Comment by Natasha Modi | April 25, 2016 | Reply

  4. Pirates of the Caribbean comes straight to mind! In your essay, do you discuss the origin of the words from the actual pirates during the times of exploration way before the 1800s? Were these words used by real pirates or were they made up by entertainment and media?

    Comment by Ashlee Jed | April 26, 2016 | Reply

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