Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19, 2014

Arrrr! Ahoy mateys, today be Talk Like a Pirate Day. This be the day those who be scallywags talk like true buccaneers not like lubbers.

English: Mark Summers ("Cap'n Slappy"...

English: Mark Summers (“Cap’n Slappy”) and John Baur (“Ol’ Chumbucket”), founders of Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, the pirates of the Caribbean didn’t really talk like that The real language spoken by a pirate crew would have depended on the nationality of the crew, an English crew would have spoken English, French would have spoken French, and so on. Whatever language they spoke, the crews of a pirate ship would probably have spoken a lower class sailor’s dialect, not too different from the workingmen’s speech of their native country, though with nautical jargon. Of course, the Caribbean was a melting pot of races and nationalities and I suppose pirate crews reflected that diversity. There were a number of pidgins and creoles spoken in the region, which were spoken on pirate ships and which didn’t sound much like the language we associate with pirates.

So, where did our ideas about talking like a pirate come from? Most likely from the same place most of our other ideas about pirates, Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island. That children’s adventure story is responsible for most of ideas about pirates, buried treasure, parrots, pirate ships,pieces of eight,  the whole genre. Treasure Island is where you can find such expressions as “shiver me timbers” and “avast, matey” not to mention the dead man’s chest.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Cha...

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The actual sounds and wording what we think of as pirate language seems to have come from the actor Robert Newton who played Long John Silver in the 1950 Disney adaptation of Treasure Island. He reprised the role of  Long John Silver in an 1954 Australian film of that name. Newton also portrayed Blackbeard in Blackbeard the Pirate. Newton was originally from Dorset, in south-west England and he was educated in Cornwall. For his pirate roles, Newton opted to use an exaggerated version of his native West Country dialect with its rolling r’s or Arrrr’s. Robert Newton’s portrayals of pirates were popular enough that his speech became established as the real pirate speech in popular culture. Thus we have a Talk Like a Pirate Day in which people don’t really talk much like pirates at all.

Then again, Robert Newton’s dialect may not have been that far off. A lot of sailors came from south-west England and the region was a center of shipping and trade and it is likely that many pirates came from the region, including Blackbeard. Of course, we have no recordings of the way eighteenth century pirates or sailors spoke, so there is no way to know for sure. Still, it’s fun and we could all use some more fun in our lives.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest!

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

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Private Cities in Honduras

September 5, 2012

I saw this story at AP.com. A group of investors are planning to build three privately run cities, outside the jurisdiction of the Honduran government.

Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project.

The project’s aim is to strengthen Honduras’ weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup.

The project “has the potential to turn Honduras into an engine of wealth,” said Carlos Pineda, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships. It can be “a development instrument typical of first world countries.”

The “model cities” will have their own judiciary, laws, governments and police forces. They also will be empowered to sign international agreements on trade and investment and set their own immigration policy.

Its an intriguing idea. If I understand this correctly, these cities will be like independent city-states, perhaps free trade zones. This might help to jump start the Honduran economy, though I am surprised that any national government would yield sovereignty, even over just three cities. There might be drawbacks, and this proposal has been controversial.

The project is opposed by civic groups as well as the indigenous Garifuna people, who say they don’t want their land near Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast to be used for the project. Living along Central America’s Caribbean coast, the Garifuna are descendants of the Amazon’s Arawak Indians, the Caribbean’s Caribes and escaped West African slaves.

“These territories are the Garifuna people’s and can’t be handed over to foreign capital in an action that is pure colonialism like that lived in Honduras during the time that our land became a banana enclave,” said Miriam Miranda, president of the Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras.

Oscar Cruz, a former constitutional prosecutor, filed a motion with the Supreme Court last year characterizing the project as unconstitutional and “a catastrophe for Honduras.”

“The cities involve the creation of a state within the state, a commercial entity with state powers outside the jurisdiction of the government,” Cruz said.

The Supreme Court has not taken up his complaint.

This is something worth watching and if it works out may become a model for other underdeveloped nations.


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