How (Not) To Talk Like A Pirate

This Thursday, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day — a fake but increasingly popular holiday of which I’ve been vaguely aware for a number of years, and which I used to think was totally ridiculous.

Then I wrote The Chronicles of Egg, and I suddenly realized International Talk Like A Pirate Day was absolutely brilliant!

tlapdbanner2 By “absolutely brilliant,” of course, I mean “a marketing opportunity.” There are, after all, quite a lot of pirates in the Egg books, and nearly all of them talk.

Except for Mung, who lost part of his skull to a cannonball and can only gurgle incoherently. Which is admittedly kind of disturbing, although if you’ve read Deadweather and Sunrise, I think you’ll agree Mung’s shown great fortitude in living with his disability, and on the whole maintains a very positive, even charming, demeanor.

But I digress.

The thing is, marketing middle grade kids’ books–even critically acclaimed ones that adults love as much as kids–is HARD. Even when you’re blessed with incredibly fortunate alphabetization (“Rodkey” just happens to be conveniently wedged between “Riordan” and “Rowling” on the shelves), it’s tough to get the attention of potential readers.

So when an obvious hook (there’s a pun to be had here, but I’m too lazy to develop it) like International Talk Like A Pirate Day presents itself, only a fool would overlook it.

Hence this post, which began with a flurry of research. Talk Like a Pirate Day (or TLAPD, as its founders call it) has quite an interesting history, which you can read about here, and which involves a racquetball court, somebody’s ex-wife, and humorist Dave Barry.

It turns out Dave Barry was the key to the whole thing. TLAPD started as a private joke between a couple of guys in Oregon, and it probably would’ve stayed that way forever if Dave hadn’t publicized it in his syndicated column back in 2002, at which point TLAPD’s popularity exploded.

(Actually, now I’m thinking that if I can just get Dave Barry to plug The Chronicles of Egg in his column, all my marketing problems will be solved. If you know how I can get in touch with Dave Barry, PLEASE EMAIL ME.)

Some further digging into the TLAPD site revealed a glossary of the appropriate jargon to use when Talking Like A Pirate. And this is where the trouble started.

Because none of the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk like pirates are supposed to.

In the course of three books (Blue Sea Burning comes out April 3rd), NOBODY SAYS “ARRRR!” Not even once.

No one ever gets called “matey,” or “lubber,” or “me hearty.”

There is not a single exclamation of “Avast!” or “Shiver me timbers!”

Worst of all, when the verb “to be” is deployed, it tends to be in grammatically correct situations–as opposed to, say, “I be thirsty fer grog!”

(There’s also no grog. But that’s a whole other story.)

So how DO the pirates in The Chronicles of Egg talk? Here’s a short excerpt from Deadweather and Sunrise, in which our 13-year-old hero, the unfortunately named Egg Masterson, first encounters the infamous pirate Burn Healy:

“By strange coincidence,” said Healy, “I’ve just come from a meeting with a very powerful man. And your name came up.”

As my chest started to thump with fear, he reached back and plucked a piece of stiff paper from his desk. He studied it with a frown.

“Do you know what this man asked me to do if I saw you?”

He slid the paper across the table to me. I didn’t have to look at it to know what it was.

“He asked me to kill you.”deadweathersmall

I didn’t know where to put my eyes — on the wanted poster with my face staring up at me, or on the pirate captain staring at me from the other side of the table.

I settled for staring at my hands. I wondered if I could ask him to shoot me instead of throwing me overboard. It’d be over faster that way.

“Don’t worry — I’m not going to.”

I looked up. There was a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

“I do a volume business. Five thousand silver’s not enough to get me out of bed. Can’t say the same for most men, though. And hats off to you.” He tapped the wanted poster with his finger. “Murderer or not, that’s quite a price for a fruit picker’s boy. Why is that? Is it the company you keep? Or is it something else?”

See what I mean? Not a lot to work with there, arrr-and-matey-wise.

So I guess there’s no angle in this for me. Even so, take the time this Thursday to talk like a pirate. It’s completely ridiculous, but it’s fun.

And if it’s not too much trouble, please tell everybody you know to pick up a copy of Deadweather and Sunrise. You’ll find it in the kids’ section, right between the Riordans and the Rowlings:

imagesdeadweathersmallimgres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Too much? I know. Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

This entry was posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How (Not) To Talk Like A Pirate

  1. Glen says:

    You are the man as always. In your honor I will gurgle like Mung for my students for the entire school day.

  2. Geoff says:

    Please apologize to your students on my behalf.

    And can you get some video of it? Because I would pay to see that.

  3. Me,( anonymously ), recorded speaking ‘pirate’ happen to have made tri-state news a few years ago, yet I do appreciate your rather eloquent pirates. There are others in your stories with, shall we say, need a grammar book and a thesaurus.
    We devoured the first two and await the third.The local library finally put in “D&S”; I made a push for “New Lands” just the other day.

  4. Geoff says:

    Thanks for hounding your library, Tonette! I really appreciate it.

  5. I am constantly telling our five-year-old Simon NOT to act like a pirate, since his typical response to being told to do anything he doesn’t want to is “Aaaar!,” so I am sure he will be pleased to hear that on Thursday he will be at total liberty to do so all day. But didn’t Dave Barry invent this to plug his own books, not yours? Though of course yours are better!

  6. Geoff says:

    Dave Barry didn’t invent ITLAPD; he popularized it.

    And I think Peter and the Starcatchers was the best book I’ve ever read.

    I will continue to think that until I’m absolutely certain that there’s no chance Dave Barry will ever plug my books. Then I will go back to thinking Peter and the Starcatchers was just pretty good.

    I hear the stage show is also pretty good.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Talk Like a Pirate Day IS ridiculous, which of course is why Cap’n Slappy and I started it and why it’s so popular. The idea that some largish number of people (or website gets millions of hits every year) are all talking like Robert Newton (Long John Silver in the 1950 “Treasure Island”) at the same time for the sheer anarchic fun of it was too good to pass up. But here’s the thing. I have myself written three pirate YA novels, and in none of them do my pirates say “Aarrr!” or “Avast” or even “Well blow me down for an old sea calf.” Although avast is perfectly good period nautical talk.

  8. Geoff says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Chumbucket!

    How can I read your pirate YA novels? I am intrigued.

    And thanks for creating such a fun holiday!

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