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Pirate terminology

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coehornboy

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Ok...I know nothing about buccaneers and such except what TV and movies tell ya. You always hear Pirates, etc, use phrases like "avast ye matey's", "shiver me timber," "aaaarrrrggggh," references to Davy Jones' locker, or ordering some poor slob to swap the poop deck or walk the plank. :grin:

So...my question is this: :hmm: Are there terms that were used in that era that we would consider to be the equivelent of today's catch phrases? Was there a slang used by pirates or by sailers in general? Or is this just a bunch of BS from Hollywood. :bull:

I need to know...my lifelong enjoyment of all things relating to Pirates of the Carribean is on the line :haha: :rotf: (but seriously, I really would like to know about the language and terminology of pirates and buccaneers) :v
 

capnwilliam

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I'm writing in a hurry...but just wanted to mention that contemporary English is FLOODED (bad pun!) with nautical phraseology. I'll post some examples in later messages!

Capt. William
 

AZ-Robert

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Well, you better haul anchor and shove off, Cap'n William, as time and tide wait for no man!

I agree -- nautical phrases abound in pretty ordinary speech, and if you've spent any time sailing, or even on the waterfront, you've picked up even more. Given that pirates were sailors, 'tis no wonder we associate them with nautical phrases.

Rather than hang on until the bitter end I'm going to cut and run, and expect you old salts that know the ropes to keep it all above board with young coehornboy.
[url] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_nautical_terms[/url]
 
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Homesteader

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"Rather than hang on until the bitter end I'm going to cut and run, and expect you old salts that know the ropes to keep it all above board with young coehornboy"

LOL! That's great! I like the cut of your jib and see you've got your ducks in a row. Good thing, too, or there'd be the Devil to pay. :haha:

Does get me to thinking: I wonder if there are more nautical terms or those regarding firearms (lock, stock, & barrel, flash in the pan, etc.) in the language..?
 

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coehornboy said:
Ok...I know nothing about buccaneers and such except what TV and movies tell ya. You always hear Pirates, etc, use phrases like "avast ye matey's", "shiver me timber," "aaaarrrrggggh," references to Davy Jones' locker, or ordering some poor slob to swap the poop deck or walk the plank. :grin:

So...my question is this: :hmm: Are there terms that were used in that era that we would consider to be the equivelent of today's catch phrases? Was there a slang used by pirates or by sailers in general? Or is this just a bunch of BS from Hollywood. :bull:

I need to know...my lifelong enjoyment of all things relating to Pirates of the Carribean is on the line :haha: :rotf: (but seriously, I really would like to know about the language and terminology of pirates and buccaneers) :v
"shiver me timber", I suspect refers to the sudden and unexpected shudder felt when the ship's keel or hull came in contact with an uncharted reef, sand bar or other shallow area of the sea. Such an event was cause for surprise, fear and dismay. The hull and keel was constructed of timbers.

As to the reference of "Davy Jones' locker" see:[url] http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dav1.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Jones'_Locker[/url]

"avast ye matey's"? I think you mean either "avast me mateys" "avast me hearties". Avast is a command to Halt or Stop suddenly. Mateys means mates, as hearties means hearty men.

In naval architecture, a poop deck is a deck that constitutes the roof of a poop cabin built in the aft (rear) part of the superstructure of a ship. The name originates from the Latin, puppis, or the elevated stern deck. In sailing ships, with the steerage at the stern, an elevated position was ideal for both navigation and observation of the crew. A prime target area for cannon and musket fire. So much blood and gore would be spilled there, making the deck slick, sticky and rancid.

While pirates often tortured their victims in novel and unpleasant ways, "walking the plank" was actually rarely employed, and owes its mythic status in the popular imagination more to Peter Pan and similar fables than to actual pirate history. Besides, whether sold as slaves or held for ransom, people were part of the booty.

Also add "six feet under" and "deep six" to the list. Today, "deep six" or "six feet under" means "dead and buried" from the fact that today's standard grave depth is six feet. These phrases actually are nautical in origin. In the days before sonar, soundings of the water's depth were taken by the "leadman" with a knotted rope weighted with lead at one end, each knot marked a fathom (a unit equaling six feet). A leadman's cry of "six deep" or "by the deep six" meant six fathoms (36 feet), or quite a bit of water, beneath the keel. Since something weighted and dropped into six fathoms of water was unlikely to ever be seen again, by the early 20th century "deep six" had come to mean "to get rid of" something, especially by putting it where it could never be found.

"Arrrr" probably comes from Wallace Beery's 1934 portrayal of the Long John Silver character from Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Treasure Island.

Hope this helps,
CP
 
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Arrowstorm

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I always thought "shiver me timbers" referred to when one shipped rammed another.

Hm... "Full sails to the wind"

and... to put something to yer rudder.

that's all I can think of right now
 

jim gray

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While pirates often tortured their victims in novel and unpleasant ways, "walking the plank" was actually rarely employed,
What about "keel-hauling" did that originate on pirate ships or in the legitimate navies. I think that if a pirate captain was too harsh with his crew he would be much more likely to find himself marooned or worse than a navy captain.
 

AZ-Robert

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"Keel Hauling: A naval punishment on board ships said to have originated with the Dutch but adopted by other navies during the 15th and 16th centuries."

Taken from here: http://www.history.navy.mil/trivia/trivia03.htm
 

Homesteader

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Can't forget the ever popular "three sheets to the wind". Lawdy knows I've experienced that one a time or two!
 

Stumpkiller

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The pirate ships were a lot easier on their crew than the Royal Navy. That's why there was never a shortage of pirates. They had a pension plan, disability benefits, and a democratic society 150 years before The Declaration of Independence.

The cat'o nine tails, whipping around the fleet (fatal).

The black flag was an invitation to surrender, usually with some mercy. The red flag meant no quarter would be given. Pirates also had a pretty good advertising gimic. :winking:
 

bezoar

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The standard wellknown facts of pirate life seem tohave covered up the standard facts.

Rule was accomplished by strict laws. Thats what the articles everybody signed were for. THe ladrones would chop a mans head off simply becuase he withheld ANY ITEM from the general prize pool wether it was a diamond ring or a 2 cent bandana.

Keel hauling wasnt generaly done, theyd just kill you or maroon you if you had a merciful crew.

And the standard ship hierarchy existed with pirates. From archeological excavation the officers lived in the stern, while the rest livedin the forcastle just like every other ship.
 

Stumpkiller

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Rule was accomplished by strict laws. Thats what the articles everybody signed were for.
All democracies have laws and rules. Anarchy is the one without. And no ship can operate without a clear single point of command (30 ft or 300 ft, that's still the case). Just the action of "signing on" and not being forcably impressed was a step towards better things. Your status (and share) was based on your skills and the job you did. Higher rank had privledges, but your family didn't establish the starting or ending position.
 

gof

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I don't think it was democracy as much as "we need more guys to break the law and risk their lives, so we better make it worth their while".

Here is an analogy
You are putting together a 8 man team of bank robbers. The master mind behind the project may get more of a share, but can you attract more bank robbers to you scheme by telling them that we are stealing $10 Million, but you are going to get $20 an hour for your time?
Bank robbers that give everyone an equal share are not creating a democratic society, they are just doing what they have to do to attract people to their cause.

And not everyone that worked on a pirate ship was there voluntarily. Often, if you had skill that the pirates needed you were FORCED to become a pirate (Navigators, Coopers, Carpenters etc).
That doesn't really make a democracy.

Also, pirates during the GAoP, captured slaves and sold them as they were considered part of the prize. While there is some evidence that some of the black pirates were treated as equals, there is also evidence that blacks aboard pirate ships were there to do the "dirty work" and not treated as equals.... Democracy?

There is also a widespread belief that pirates elected and dismissed their captains in the great pirate democracies as well.

While there is some evidence for this practice, it can also be argued that just as many pirate captains were dictators and un-elected. Blackbeard would capture ships and appoint the captains of the new ships to his fleet (a practice seen throughout the pirate captain community).

I am not saying that pirate democracies didn't exist, however, I am saying that painting even the majority of pirates and captains with a wide democracy brush is a mistake and not proven by the historical record.

GoF
 

Stumpkiller

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All good points, but I don't think we had an Utopia for the working class in any facet of society in 1690. And "Pirate" is a broad term. Some retired to the gallows and some retired to a political appointnent (governors, etc.).

Back to the original thread, and where I somehow lost the point I was working towards. I don't think pirates had a unique jargon beyond that of mariners of any greater or lesser morality.

Funding an "adventure" had to either come from an investor, in which case the crew knew very well who owned the boat and/or was appointed captain by the owner, or a small vessel (or even a mob in a longboat or skiff) captured another vessel (the appointed captain as you mentioned), or a ship's crew could mutiny.

Some interesting tales of certain locals that would strip hapless ships that ran aground, or were lured aground by strategically placed lights ashore.
 

HistoryBuff

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Here's a question. In the movie "Master and Commander", at the beginning one of the sailors appears to be taking a depth reading and he says something that sounds like "Sand and broken shell" or Sound of broken shell". What did he say and what does it mean?

HistoryBuff
 

AZ-Robert

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It was "sand and broken shell." He is describing what he found in the bit of wax (sometimes tallow) in the hollow bottom of the weight on the end of that rope. That information about the surface below the ship, along with the depth of the water, could be compared to information on the ship's charts or in the pilot's "rutter" and provide clues as to the ship's location, and could also warn of the proximity of dangerous rocks, reefs, etc. "Sand and broken shell" is a good sign... nice soft bottom.

The rope was called a "sounding line" (the depth it reported being called a "sounding") or "lead line" (the weight being lead).
 
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