It’s September 19 again, which means that it’s international TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY. If you would like to take part in this facetious, frivolous parody of a spoof, here is invaluable assistance in the form of a Pirate glossary and Pirate translations

Image result for old pirate pictures

Some of the expressions heard in the Pirate era and still in use are easy to understand – (see my earlier account https://tonythorneglobal.wordpress.com/?s=Pirate+talk ) – but in other cases they may need to be explained:

Above board = visible on deck

The devil to pay = a difficult seam to be sealed, on the ship’s outer hull

Between the devil and the deep blue sea = hanging dangerously on the lower hull

The bitter end = the end of a cable attached to a ‘bitt’ or post

By and large = sailing into the wind and slightly with the wind

A clean slate = used by the lookout to record progress and wiped clean after each watch

Chock-a-block = when rigging blocks are tightened to the maximum

Cross the line = ceremonial crossing of the Equator

Cut and run = slash off surplus equipment to make a quick escape

Distinguishing mark = identifying flag

Feeling groggy = from grog, or diluted rum

Fend off = stop the boat hitting the dockside or another vessel

Footloose = the unfastened bottom of a sail blowing in the wind

Hand over fist = gripping as a sailor climbing a mast

Hard and fast = completely stuck

In the doldrums = a zone of calm seas in the tropics

Copper-bottomed = strong as a sailing ship with a copper-covered hull

Iron-clad = like a steam warship with metal hull

Leeway = the amount a ship is driven in the direction of the prevailing wind

At Loggerheads = fighting with a heavy iron ball on a stick, used for caulking

Overreaching = holding the same course for too long

Over a barrel = positioned for flogging

Overhaul = pull ropes carefully over the sails

Pooped = swamped by a big wave

Slush fund = money from illicitly selling surplus cooking fat ashore

Take soundings = measure sea depth

Taken aback = with the sails filled dangerously with a reverse wind

Tide over = take on provisions until next sailing


Image result for pirate ship


On a much more frivolous note…here are some translations of modern terminology into Pirate-talk:


Selfie = a very likeness, made by my own hand

YOLO = every pirate for himself (and devil take the hindmost) – or EPFH (ADTTH)

= risk all for the moment, me hearties

= all aboard – for death or glory!  – or FDOG

Hashtag = pennant

= marker buoy

= banner (with a strange device)

= Jolly Roger

= X marks the spot

Trending = on the lips of all and sundry

= borne on the trade winds

= carried on the tide

Viral = spreading abroad like a pestilence

= pestilential

= contagious as the pox

Blog = log

= Captain’s log

= ship’s log

= an account of me dastardly deeds, committed to paper in me  own scrawl

Flash mob = confederacy of rogues

= villainous crew

= rampaging ne’er do-wells

Timeline = a full account of me wickedness

= dastardly doings (doggedly detailed)

= chart of the voyage

Check-in = assemble at the gangplank

= muster on the quayside

= scrawl yer mark on this ‘ere manifest!

Status = condition

= estate (eg in fine estate)

= where and what ‘e be

Follow Friday (FF) = recommending to all me shipmates

= nautical nudge – or NN

Throwback Thursday (TT) = dredgin’ up the past

= evil deeds best forgotten

= memories of me misspent youth  – or MMMY

Apps = diabolical devices, tricks and subterfuges

Like = stamp with my seal

= bestow my approval

= add my endorsement

= take to my bosom

Share = divide up the loot

= give to each his part of the booty

= pass on to me shipmates

LOL = Yo Ho Ho  – or YHH

Retweet = pass on the scuttlebutt

= re-tell the old yarns

Snapchat = vanishing mirage

= fleeting vision of curiosities

= glimpse of fascinations (out of reach)

The Cloud = the firmament

= the great archipelago (where all ships vanish)

Instagram it = make a picture and convey it (to me)

= seal the likeness in a bottle and send it on the next  tide

And one or two others:

Portal = porthole

IPad = IPatch

Platform = plank

= deck

Talk to the hook

Ebay = Botany Bay

Swag = swagger

Windows = portholes

Blocked = scuttled

Twitter = twit-aarrrr!

= the damned squabbling of parakeets

OMG = stap me vitals!

Epic fail = damnable blunder

Email = message in a bottle

and just by the by…

(A pirate with no arms and legs, thrown overboard: Cap’n Bob

A pirate lying in the doorway: Cap’n Mat

A pirate hiding in a pile of leaves: Cap’n Russell)


Image result for pirates old document


Today, September 19, is, in the calendar of spoof and parody, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so here is a note on pirate language, followed by more thoughts in the form of a podcast…



The pirate is one of the most enduring icons of folklore and popular culture across the English-speaking world and beyond. Nowadays a ‘piratical’ boss may strike fear into the hearts of his workers and ‘pirated’ goods have to be avoided, but everything else about these intrepid marauders is tinged with romance. The word itself is from Latin pirata, derived from Greek peiran, to attack: the associated ‘buccaneering’ and ‘swashbuckling’ are terms of admiration, evoking a devilishly determined rogue who is villain and hero at the same time. It was England’s first Queen Elizabeth who launched the privateers, as they became known, on their way when she licensed 16th-century explorers like Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and John Hawkins to take foreign ships and plunder the treasure houses of the Americas. But the pirates’ golden age came later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when they operated freely in their hundreds across the seven seas, even establishing their own pirate state on the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga in the Caribbean. The real lives of Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Irishwoman Ann Bonny and the rest were first recorded – and considerably embellished – in Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, published in 1724.

While pirates made their mark on history and on fiction, for hundreds of years the sea and its sailors were a very real presence for ordinary Britons, whose family members, whether fishermen, naval mariners  – or perhaps smugglers or slavers – struggled to make their fortunes at sea, risking their lives and enduring months or years away. The language of the sea penetrated the language used at home, to such an extent that we have forgotten the nautical origins of many of our everyday expressions…

All at sea

A shot across the bows

Batten down the hatches

Clear the decks

Dead in the water


Fly the flag/show your true colours/nail your colours to the mast/with flying colours

Give someone a wide berth

Hit the deck

Loose cannon

On an even keel

Plain sailing

Safe haven

Sail close to the wind

Show someone the ropes

Take on board

The coast is clear

Weather the storm


And if you would like to hear more…



and, lastly, without permission…