Friday, February 24, 2012

Arrrrrr! Yes, Arrrrrr!

Wired magazine, as always a boundless source of valuable information, presents crucial details about talking like a pirate: specifically, why pirates say "arrrrr!" (Sometimes spelled "arrrgh," which I suppose is a silent 'gh' but which I can't help pronouncing as 'arg,' so I'm not in favor of it.)

The story (not yet online: page 58, March 2012 issue): Robert Louis Stevenson, in Treasure Island, has a lot of characters saying "ah," in such contexts as "Ah, that's a sweet pirate database full of MeSH terms like 'Artificial Limbs' and 'Parrots'!"

Then in 1950 Disney made a movie version, and Robert Newton, playing Long John Silver, had a Cornwall (Cornish?) accent which made this "ah" sound like "arrr."

And ever after, "arrrrrrrrr!" has been one of those things that pirates say, along with "avast," and "me hearties," and "booty," and that is how that worked out. Fascinating, right?

I know! It really is.

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