It’s National Talk Like A Pirate Day and everyone is peg leg deep in their “Rrrrrrr’s” and “Aye aye, captains!” It’s kind of annoying, it’s kind of fun, but not all pirates were from the same part of town that talked like this. Pirate crews were comprised of many types of people from various walks of life. Some white, some black, hell there were even female pirates. So no, not all pirates spoke with the same dialect but who the hell made us all think there’s only ONE way to talk like a pirate?
You can thank these two for the day. But not the talk.
The history of Talk Like A Pirate Day is real easy to find. It was created in 1995 by John Baur and Mark Summers. Why was it created? Because two friends thought it was funny, plain and simple. They landed on the date, September 19th and celebrated it amongst their friends but they needed to take it to the next step. They contacted, at the time, the funniest writer they could think of who had a platform to really get Talk Like A Pirate Day out there to the masses. They found comedy writer and author Dave Barry’s email address, who had a column at the time with the Miami Herald, and reached out. Barry surprisingly replied, agreeing that it was a “very excellent” holiday idea which led his article written in 2002. The article was widely read, accepted and now here we are fourteen years later talking like a damn pirate.
BUT…who the hell was the first person in history to talk “like a scurvy, swindling pirate! Arrrr!” No, it wasn’t a real pirate. It was an actor who gave such great pirate performances, the world (and subsequently other actors) doesn’t even realize they’re impersonating him every Sept. 19th.
Actor Robert Newton
Walt Disney released Treasure Island in 1950, their first live action film after mainly releasing short and feature cartoons, starring actor Robert Newton (full name Robert Guy Newton) as Long John Silver. In short, this is your answer. Newton’s performance in this film marks the first time the world had ever heard that now very familiar “pirate talk” half of your office is performing as we speak.
Below is a clip from Long John Silver, a sequel to Treasure Island starring Robert Newton once again.
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In fact, Newton’s performance was so beloved in Treasure Island, he was cast as Blackbeard in Blackbeard The Pirate in 1952 by RKO, once again solidifying the “pirate talk” we continue to celebrate today. He then brought back his Long John Silver role from Treasure Island for the film sequel of the same name (Long John Silver) before performing in a spinoff television series titled The Adventures of Long John Silver. Dude got some steady work as a badass pirate.
Newton starred in 28 films, including Oliver Twist, but it’s his portrayal of Silver and Blackbeard that have held a lasting memory with film goers and pirate fans alike. Even a great actors like Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Carribean), Tim Curry (Muppets Treasure Island) and Dustin Hoffman (Hook) can’t help but give conventional pirate performances because what Newton did was perfection. There is no doing it another way.
So, now not only can you really sharpen your pirate skills by listening to the source itself, Robert Newton’s various pirate performances, but also realize who you’re even impersonating in the first place. No, it’s not a pirate you’re doing. It’s just a damn good performance from a solid English character actor.
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