Why Pirates Say Arrr and Other Pirate Facts

Fun Facts About Pirates

When you think of a pirate it’s hard not to think of the movie imagery, both cartoon movies and Hollywood blockbusters depict pirates in a pretty familiar way. They wear a certain style of clothing and often at least one character has a defining feature such as a peg leg or a missing hand. And no pirate costume would be complete without an eye patch. But where does this image of pirates come from?

We’ve taken a look at some common pirate features and behaviours and tried to figure out whether they are based in fact or fiction.

Why Do Pirates Say Arr?

”Ooh arr me hearties” and “shiver me timbers” are definitely pirate speak. Ask any child. But did pirates really have a special language all of their own? Historians think probably not, pirates were mostly recruited from regular sailors and so English speaking pirates would have spoken the same as other sailors of the time, with many of them coming from riverfront communities in London.

So where does this pirate language come from? A movie. The 1950’s Disney movie, Treasure Island, featured a pirate called Long John Silver who spoke with an accent and used lots of phrases that became ubiquitous with ever since.

Did Pirates Really Have Peg Legs and Hooks for Hands?

The answer to this is probably not. Although peg legs and hook hands are historically accurate according to the time period there aren’t any really famous pirates that had missing limbs. This is most likely to be because although amputations were fairly common at the time, they were the often the only option if an injury became infected, pirates who suffered amputations would have been given a benefit allowing them to retire comfortably.

However being as amputations were pretty common many writers have given pirates missing limbs to make them more memorable and intimidating.

Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches?

This one might actually be true. There is at least one famous pirate who was known to wear an eye patch in later life at least. It is also believed that some pirates wore eye patches not because they had a missing eye but because it let them see better in the dark. By keeping one eye acclimatised to the dark they could see better below decks.

Would a Pirate Really Make You Walk The Plank?

This bizarre punishment was probably less common than we have come to believe. Although it may have happened occasionally if pirates had time for a bit of entertainment while they were dishing out punishments. More likely you would have been thrown overboard or left on a dessert Island.


Next Up: Should We Be Worried About Children Playing Pirates?

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