The popular version of the pirate "accent" can be traced to actor Robert Newton, who used his West Country accent in his portrayal of Long John Silver in Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950). Newton reprised his role in the followup film Long John Silver (1954).
As to the terms pirates used, we don't have any recordings of them, and they didn't exactly keep detailed logs of their raids, robberies, and carousings. But George Choundas, author of The Pirate Primer, has culled examples from famous novels, films, and television shows to give us an idea of where our "pirate talk" originated. The Primer is a wealth of fun information. Here are a few of the colorful oaths Choundas offers up:
curse me for a papistical Spaniard = I'm telling the truth, on my honor; if I'm lying, you can call me a Spaniard
damn my gizzards! = Relates to one's stomach or innards
may I drink a bowl of brimstone and fire with the devil = May I burn in hell if I'm telling a lie
shiver my timbers! = expression of surprise; refers to the trembling of the ship when hit with a cannonball
them that'll die be the lucky ones
There's never a man yet looks me between the eyes and lives to see a good day afterwards.
you'll be meat for the sharks
up the yardarm you'll swing by your thumbs = You'll be hung from the yardarm, which is the crosswise pole supporting a square-rigged sail; often used for hanging
For more tips on being the chattiest pirate around, check out this handy how-to site. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!
What's with all this pirate stuff? We're approaching the Launch Day of THE WAND & THE SEA, in which Holly and the boys are forced to team up with a pirate captain to save the Adepts of Anglielle. Look for it June 23! Read more about the book here. And learn more pirate stuff on the website's new Pirate Lore page!
ship image by Torley. Used by permission via this Creative Commons license.