Close your eyes and imagine a pirate. Was he wearing an eye patch, burying some gold and overusing the letter "r"? If so, we're here to tell you that the image of pirates that Hollywood has taught you isn't just wrong -- in most cases, the truth was even more badass.
For example ...
6Pirates Talked Like ... Well, Pirates
Quick -- do a pirate voice.
We don't care if you can't imitate any other accent in the world, if we ask you (or anyone else on earth) to talk like a pirate, you'll go, "ARRRR, MATEY!"
You can tell he's making the "ey" noise right now.
This is thanks to decades of cartoons and movies where everyone playing a pirate was legally obligated to litter their speech with "arrs" and the like while assuming the intonation of a rowdy drunken Englishman. Unless your name is Johnny Depp, that is; then you're obligated to assume the intonation of Johnny Depp in every Johnny Depp movie ever.
"What do you mean? I'm doing a pirate voice now. This is my pirate voice. *mumble mumble*"
Granted, outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise there haven't been a lot of pirate movies in the past few decades, but at the same time there's been no shortage of pirate or pirate-talking characters invading other genres: Like the Pirate Captain in The Venture Bros., the other Pirate Captain in The Simpsons, Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball and Agent Scurvy Pirateson in CSI: Miami.
Obviously, we know the "pirate accent" we hear in these shows and films is exaggerated, just like they would exaggerate a French or Mexican accent, but it must be based on something real, right?
The Venture Bros. wouldn't lie to us.
Phrases like "shiver my timbers" and traditional pirate songs like "Fifteen Men on the Dead Man's Chest" were made up by Robert Louis Stevenson for his novel Treasure Island, published in 1883 -- over 150 years after the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. We might as well tell you right now that 90 percent of all pirate tropes come from the same book: One legged pirates, squawking parrots, drunken mutinies ... all that stuff can be traced back to Treasure Island.
Yes, pirates did lose limbs in battle, mutiny on occasion and get shitfaced a lot, but Stevenson was the first to combine those elements into one package, creating the popular image of pirates.
Belts cinched up below the nipples, that's the Pirate Way.
But what about the "arr" voice? That actually comes from the West Country accent from the southwestern portion of England. In the 1950 Disney adaptation of Treasure Island, Robert Newton played a pirate from the West Country and overdid it a little with the accent, throwing "arr" into every other sentence. Two years later Newton used the same accent in Blackbeard the Pirate, and the stereotype was cast.
To put this in perspective, if Newton played a pirate from Boston, we'd all be imagining pirates shouting "wicked pissah" as they boarded enemy ships.
So what did pirates actually sound like? In reality, there never was one "pirate accent" at all, mainly because that makes no damn sense. The idea of a pirate dialect assumes that all pirates spoke English and used the same slang, when in fact many pirate crews were from different countries. If pirates did have a distinct way of speaking, it was only in the sense that they needed to employ nautical terms on a daily basis. You can take solace in the fact that English-speaking pirates did use the word "avast," but the probability of it ever being combined with "mateys" is slim at best.
This is avast, right? He's avasting that sail?