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Avast there, you scurvy dogs

As you make your plans to commemorate International Talk Like a Pirate Day on Sept. 19, mateys, you will need to keep this distinction in mind:

The classic pirate utterance is spelled Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, with as many or few r’s as you prefer. The spelling sometimes seen, Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh, represents the strangled cry of distress, frustration, anger or despair and is not properly piratical.

Also, it is my painful duty to inform you, is you think that Arrrrrrrrrrrr or any variation on it is fresh and original in a headline about pirates or pirate argot, you are badly mistaken.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:25 AM | | Comments (7)


What about frustrated pirates? I'm sure that's a common piratical emotion.

All right, let's clarify.

You say, "Arrrrrrrrr," when you're the pirate ordering someone to walk the plank.

You say, "Arrrrrrgh," when you're the pirate stepping off the plank.

I'll bet that pirates are difficult to interview and even more difficult to edit. And I wouldn't want to fact-check their copy.
This rule of thumb will help.
Thanks, John.

In a recent former life as Bluebeard, a retired pirate living on the Caribbean island called Treasure Island, wearing Hawaiian shirts and baggy shorts while sipping Maui-Mauis, both my crew and I debated the proper spelling and pronunciation of this verbal morsel of our daily diets.

More to the point, though, we took great pains to paint the proper, accurate picture of our lives of raids, pillaging and skulduggery on and adjacent to the high seas.

We are not difficult to interview, in fact we tend toward the loquacious, although you might not be allowed to return to your home to write about it, you scurvy dog.

For anyone finding one of the many bottles containing a written record of Bluebeard's adventures, rest assured that every statement is true, fact checked by the crew and copy edited by the Captain, himself, me.

Now, I'm back to living the good life underneath the tropical sun.


Captain Bluebeard
of the Clynmalira Players

But it's still "The Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh," correct?

"I'll bet that pirates are difficult to interview and even more difficult to edit. And I wouldn't want to fact-check their copy. This rule of thumb will help."

Huh. Edit a Pirate and you won't have no thumbs, me bucko!

Oh. And why haven't Pirates written any of the great books?

It's tough when your alphabet is


(Used to teach that to my junior sailing sudents to great effect).

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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