17 Swashbuckling Facts About Talk Like A Pirate Day

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Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you know, September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an annual phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm, having been observed by every continent, the International Space Station and even the Oval Office since it first made headlines back in 2002. So let’s hoist the Jolly Roger, break out the rum, and take a look back at the holiday’s timber-shivering history.

1. Creators John Baur & Mark Summers Originally Celebrated the Event on D-Day

The pair of Oregon natives (who’ve since acquired the nicknames “Ol’ Chumbucket” and “Cap’n Slappy,” respectively) created the holiday while playing racquetball on June 6, 1995—the 51st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.  Out of respect to the battle’s veterans, a new observance date was quickly sought.

2. September 19th Was Selected as the Holiday’s New Date Because It Was The Birthday of Summers’ Ex-Wife

“[September 19th was] the only date we could readily recall that wasn’t already taken up with Christmas or the Super Bowl or something,” the pair later claimed. Summers claims to harbor no ill will towards his former spouse, who’s since stated, “I’ve never been prouder to be his ex-wife!”

3. Pulitzer Prize-Winning Humor Columnist Dave Barry Is Responsible for Popularizing TLAP Day

Barry was so smitten with the holiday after having been introduced to it via email in early 2002 that he dedicated an entire column to its publicity that September, turning an inside joke into a global sensation. He later went on to make a cameo appearance in one of Baur & Summers’ buccaneer-themed music videos in 2011 (look for him at the 3:25 mark):

4. Real Pirates Spoke A Wide Variety of Dialects

Despite some extensive “English-to-Pirate” dictionaries that have cropped up over the net, the idea that all pirates shared a common accent regardless of national origin is historically absurd, as National Geographic pointed out a few years back.

5. Actor Robert Newton is Hailed as the “Patron Saint” of TLAP Day

So where did the modern “pirate dialect” come from? Summers and Baur credit the British thespian’s performance in Treasure Island (1950) and have accordingly dubbed him the “patron saint” of their holiday. Tasked with breathing life into the scheming buccaneer, Newton simply exaggerated his native West Country accent and the rest is history.

6. Baur’s Family Was Featured On a Pirate-Themed Episode of Wife Swap

The reality show’s highly-anticipated 2006 season premiere pitted the Baurs (in full pillaging regalia) against a family which, according to John’s wife Tori (aka: “Mad Sally”), “behaved as though ‘fun’ was something that had to be pre-packaged for their protection.”

7. Baur Was Also on Jeopardy!

Baur was described to the audience as “a writer and pirate from Oregon” in his 2008 appearance. “I didn’t win,” he said, “but the introduction made Alex blink.”

8. TLAP Day Has Become a Cornerstone of the Pastafarian Movement

Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, cited Earth’s dwindling pirate population as the clear source of global warming in his 2005 open letter to the Kansas school board which established the religion. Since then, Talk Like A Pirate Day has been observed by devout Pastafarians worldwide. 

9. Thanks Largely To The Holiday, Facebook Has Uploaded a “Pirate” Language Setting…

You can see how to set your Facebook account to Pirate here. Google's got the feature, too.

10. A Florida Mayor Once Ignited A Local Controversy For Making An Official TLAP Day Proclamation

Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo light-heartedly urged her constituents to embrace the holiday last year, writing, “The City … is known to possess a spirit of independence, high spirits, and swashbuckling, all traits of a good pirate.” Her actions were criticized by the city’s former commissioner, Jo-Ann Golden, who took offense to the association with murderous seamen.

11. “Day of the Ninja” Was Created As A Retort To “Talk Like A Pirate Day”

Golden’s not the only pirate-hater out there. Not to be outdone by their hated rivals, the pro-ninja community was quick to execute the first annual “Day of the Ninja” on December 5, 2002.  For Summers and Baur’s take on the warring factions, here’s a nifty clip:

12. Astronauts Once Celebrated TLAP Day Aboard The International Space Station

In a 2012 interview, Summers recalled being “informed that the astronauts on the International Space Station were awakened to ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me' and joined in the pirate talk from space.”

13. Cap’n Slappy & Ol’ Chumbucket Are Now Minor World of Warcraft Characters

For experienced gamers interested in seeing this clever homage for themselves, directions are available here.  

14. President Obama Once Celebrated With A Costumed Buccaneer In The Oval Office

The leader of the free world tweeted this image on TLAP Day last year with the caption “Arr you in?”

15. Congressman Dennis Ross Later Used The Holiday to Slam The President’s Tax Plan

Florida’s 12th congressional district representative used the festivity as a political punchline after Obama made a speech detailing his tax plan last September 19th, tweeting, “It is TALK like a pirate day… not ACT like one. Watch ye purses and bury yr loot, the taxman cometh.”

16. The State of Michigan Officially Recognized TLAP Day Earlier This Year

On June 4, 2013, state senator Roger Kahn’s proposal to grant Talk Like A Pirate Day official acknowledgement from the Michigan government was formally adopted, to the chagrin of some dissenting landlubbers. 

17. Talk Like A Pirate, Get A Free Donut

Rejoice, sweet-toothed scallywags! According to the company’s official website, “Thursday, September 19, any buccaneer to enter a participating Krispy Kreme and talk like a pirate gets one FREE Original Glazed® doughnut. To the landlubber who dares to wear full pirate attire goes a bounty of one FREE dozen Original Glazed doughnuts.” Unsurprisingly, Long John Silver’s held a similar promotion last year

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September 19, 2013 - 6:30am
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