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PIRATE LORE

With your host, First Mate Cormorant, most recently of the Frankly Bonnie.


First of all, let's address shiver me timbers. It's not, in fact, a random combination of words that mean nothing. In fact, to shiver one's timbers means to shoot a cannon ball into another boat with such force that the wood (the "timbers") on the boat shake (or "shiver"). Of course, you do not actually want someone to shiver your timbers, which is why it's used as an oath. If you do something you swear not to do, anyone should feel free to shiver your timbers.
Example: "Shiver me timbers, I'll never sail with that Bo'sun again!"

How about a good insult? There's always bilge rat, which would make someone the vermin that lives in the foul, smelly water that collects in the bottom of the boat. Or whale's bile. Or a land pirate who is someone who has a pirate-like reputation not because of their skill at sea, but because they're a real asshole.
Or how about forecastlehead? This one is slightly more complex and gets at two of the finer points of pirate speak: rank differences and pronounciation. The forecastle, or foc'sle, is the part of the boat ahead of the vertical pole (mast) that holds up the most forward sail. This is usually where the non-officer crew slept, for several reasons. First of all, the front point (bow) of a boat is the place that gets tossed around the most, due to the fact that it's what's cutting through the waves. For the same reason, it also gets the wettest. So...it's not where the officers slept.
Officers, in fact, sleep at the very back (stern) of the boat, which is the most stable. I am not entirely sure if there's any thought process that goes into which side the captain sleeps on, although I can tell you that this summer my captain preferred the left (port) quarters, so I, as the second-in-command (first mate or simply mate), took the right (starboard) ones.
Okay. Back to the foc'sle. It's where the crew slept. It's also where most of their work went on. Because it is ahead of, or before, the mast, if someone says that they spent "x years before the mast" it means that they spent that many years serving on a boat's (non-officer) crew.
So, getting back around to the point, a forecastlehead is someone who is not fit for any duties other than those of a common crew member. They're dumb, basically. It's a more colorful way of saying they are too slow and stupid to ever be an officer.

But that's a nice lead in to PRONOUNCIATION! If you were to ever call a sailor a "four-cas-l-head" they would look at you and just laugh and laugh, because you, my friend, would be a lubber. Most long pirate words are actually not pronounced the way that they look. "Forecastle" is actually pronounced "folk-sail." And to get really proper, "sail" is not actually pronounced "sail." It's more of a gutteral "slll." So in order to really call someone a forecastlehead and make it hurt, you would have to say "Folk-sl-'ead."
An aside: If you were actually a crew member who lived and worked in the foc'sle and you wanted a non-offensive name for yourself, both foc'sle jack and foc'sle hand are considered neutral, "hand" being a general name for someone who works on a boat (i.e., the modern "deckhand"). All hands!, therefore, is yelled by the captain or mate is a good way to get the entire crew's attention (and, as all commands on a boat are not considered recieved until the intended person repeats it aloud, "all hands!" is then yelled back as a response by the crew that they are listening to what the captain or mate has to say).

Many pirate words are like this. The person in charge of the more technical and organization aspects of the deck of a ship (an example that comes to mind is that I always think of Tyrol as the boatswain of Galactica) is called the "boatswain," but no one in the history of piracy has ever said "boat-swain." The proper pronounciation is "BO-sun," which is why it's sometimes written out bo'sun instead of boatswain.

Okay, enough about words. A few more finer points of pirate culture. Have you ever wondered why figureheads existed? Well, here's the deal. Sailors are super superstitious. Waaay superstitious. Because when you're out on the water, you can control relatively few things. Even your skill as a sailor matters very little with regards to the weather. So, in order to feel in control, sailors and pirates developed a very complex system of superstitions in order to feel like they could do something to control the wind, waves, and weather.
One of those is the use of figureheads on the bow of the boat. You see, Neptune, God of the sea, is a horny ass bastard. He likes the ladies. And so, it was customary to carve half-naked women onto the bows of boats as an offering to Neptune. Sort of a "you give us safe passage, and we'll let you look at this sexy statue porn for a couple of months."
If your ship has no figurehead, because maybe, say, you're an Outward Bound education vessel, and you get trapped in a nasty storm, the bare breasts of actual women can be shown to Neptune in exchange for him calming the seas.
I've successfully made this trade I um...know people...who have had it work for them.

While naked ladies are good luck aboard a boat, some things are bad. Animals. Growing plants. Speaking ill of the boat or the sea. Whistling.
The reason that whistling is bad luck is because it brings more wind than you can handle. But there is one way to make it okay. If you have no wind at all, the captain may respectfully ask Neptune for a little bit by asking the youngest crew member to go to the very forward mast (do you remember what forward and mast are from our earlier lesson? Good!) and whistle while scratching it. This will bring just enough, but not too much wind.

Finally, boats and ships are never, ever, ever to be referred to as "it." The only proper pronoun for a boat is she. This is not just a slang term. Nautical law, to this day, still refers to vessels in the feminine pronoun. There are certain sections of the pirating sailing population who consider it to be sexist terminology that had its origins from the degredation of women, but tradition is still winning out. I personally think of it as being a very respectful thing, seeing as how I respect my boats a great deal.

Another good-luck superstition is praying to St. Christopher, the patron saint of sailors. It's no great secret that I am not religious at all, but I do feel an affinity with St. Christopher (the obvious name connection also comes to mind) and I own a St. Christopher pendant (with the words "St. Christopher Protect Us" inscribed on it) that I wear most of the time.

That's all I've got, I think. At least off the top of my head. Any questions?

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

YARRR! :D




In other news, I stole this meme from Tiptoe:

--Choose an artist/band.
--Then, answer the following questions using only titles of their songs.


1. Are you male or female? You and I Both
2. Describe yourself. Not So Usual
3. What do people feel when they're around you? Wordplay
4. How would you describe your previous relationship? 1,000 Things (Bonus points for using his favorite song)
5. Describe your current relationship. Absolutely Zero
6. Where would you want to be now? No Stopping Us
7. How do you feel about love? A Beautiful Mess
8. What's your life like? Life is Wonderful
9. What would you ask for if you had only one wish? Geek In The Pink
10. Say something wise. The Beauty in Ugly

And FINALLY, I was reminded during the Heroes Pre-Season 3 Friending Meme about Fetch!, the reality show I was in last summer. I checked on Wikipedia, and it's totally going to be airing in less than a month. If you happen to have PBS, you should tune in on October 14 and see if you see me working the belay on the climbing tower at the end of the episode. :D

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
gealbhan_beag
Sep. 20th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
Thank ye for the pirate lore!
comixologist
Sep. 20th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
I am too lazy to post this on my LJ but I will totally meme you in your own comments, LOL.

The name of the band is Cowboy Mouth.
1.) Uh-Oh!
2.) Son of an Engineer
3.) Glad to Be Alive
4.) Hole in my Heart/Lovers or Friends/Crazy 'Bout Ya/I Told Ya
5.) Whatcha Gonna Do?
6.) Get Outta My Way
7.) Light it on Fire
8.) Easy
9.) Home
10.) Slow Down
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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"Wandering Daughter" --Kimya Dawson

I am the wanderer's wandering daughter
wrestle the pestle for the sake of the mortar
i love as i breathe and leave as i live
my cast iron shield's a titanium sieve

and a castle that's built on confusion and doubt
is a nickel within and a dollar without
just when the shoes seem so big i can't win
i fill my own sneakers and take off again

i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
take all my pain and i mix it with water
it's sunny it's sweet and i don't purple stuff it
one day by the way i met little miss muffet

i blew my mind with the stuff that i taught her
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
i said if a spider should sit down beside you
tell him your name and then tell him the truth

a great hairy spider appeared there and then
and the holes in my soul started letting in wind
i felt like a lamb being led to the slaughter
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter

she said i'm miss muffet i'm very afraid
but something inside me is making me stay
i know deep down that if i run away
i'll just meet more spiders and still feel the same

the spider he smiled and said how is this true
when i am so terribly smaller than you?
my web it just went in the way the wind blew
what i was in for i hadn't a clue

he touched her face gently with six of his legs
and licked from her chin a speck of curds and whey
when i was certain they'd both be okay
i tightened my laces and i walked away

as i walked away i was feeling excluded
wishing my impulses weren't diluted
the muscle i hustle is real for my friends
but the muscle i keep for myself is pretend

i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
travel the land and i live like a martyr
the things that i do aren't the things that i teach
if i spend my time practicing when will i preach?

i do what i must as you do what you oughta
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
take all my pain and mix it with water
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter

i'm lost and alone and i'm fair and i'm free
you am what you is and i are who i be
what i'm lacking in strength i make up for in smarts
you keep your stability i'll keep my heart

fear finds october emotions are juices
beat around bushes and make up excuses
go out for ceruleans come home with chartreuses
snip and cut bonsais and turn them to spruces

miss muffet called me and she said don't cry
real friends are friends until after they die
still i romanticize all this disorder
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
hop the next bus and run for the border
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter
give you my life if you give me a quarter
i am the wanderer's wandering daughter

so long it's been good to know ya
so long it's been good to know ya
so long it's been good to know ya
i've got to be moving along
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