Stuff You Should Know: Pirates

pirates

As fun as it is to think that piracy is all about butt sex and grammatically hilarious jargon, it turns out the pirate game has a little more meat to it. Here are ten things you need to know about our favorite frilly shirted rascals of the sea.

1. Pirates are Older than Words

skeleton

It should come as no surprise that as long as man has taken to the seas for travel/commerce/to run away from horrific murders committed in the throes of passion, other men have taken to the seas to rip those first men off. In fact, waaaaaay back in the 2nd millennium BC, there was a whole confederacy of pirates. So, at about the same time people figured out how to use chariots and invented the concept of an alphabet, the Sea Peoples were already raiding ships on the Mediterranean Sea. And from what we can tell, that’s pretty much all they did. Whether or not they wore eyeliner and sloshed around the ocean drunkenly is not on record.

2. Pirates are NOT Privateers

privateer

DUH. Before most countries had actual navies, they relied on privateers to do their dirty work on the high seas. Like pirates, privateers were usually rogue sailors or fortune seekers who took to the ocean because they didn’t have many options at home. Unlike pirates, privateers were actually commissioned by their king or queen to capture enemy ships. Which was why the English considered Francis Drake a hero and knighted his thieving ass, while the Spanish considered him a criminal. One thing that everyone agrees on is that without privateers the United States would have mos’ def lost the Revolutionary War. Privateering and piracy weren’t even considered illegal until 1856.

In fact…

3. The Boston Tea Party Was Technically an Act of Piracy

tea party

Because it was a private party destroying someone else’s property on the water. Piracy. So the next time you’re high as a kite on your jet ski and you accidentally dump your friend’s Coors Light into the lake, consider yourself a pirate, matey.

4. The Jolly Roger Was Only One Flag of Many

jolly roger

And that’s if they had one at all. Pirates weren’t stupid, you know. Most of the time they used neutral colored flags to get within firing range of their targets, kind of like how you and I signal we’re ok for sex with a NO STDS HERE t-shirt (even though we’re totally lying.) It wasn’t until pirates fired their first warning shot that the recognized symbol of piracy, a plain black flag was hoisted, usually in the hopes that their opponents would just crap their pants and abandon ship. A red flag meant no mercy would be shown to their victims and a purple flag meant Prince was on board.

jolly prince

Just kidding. I made that last one up. The good news for pirate lovers was that the skull and crossbones were a real thing and totally employed by a few historical pirates.

5. Blackbeard Was the Most Famous Pirate of All

blackbeard

And he learned his skillz from a guy named Captain Hornigold, which is the funniest name ever recorded in history, other than Captain Dookiepants. The thing about Blackbeard was that he was sort of a real life Dread Pirate Roberts, in that his reputation is more fearsome than his deeds. The real Blackbeard probably never actually killed anyone, he just depended on everyone being scared enough of him to give up before he had to.

6. And the Most Famous Lady Pirate Pulled a Neat Trick

anne bonny

When lady pirate Anne Bonny was sentenced to execution in 1720, she “pleaded her belly” to avoid her sentence. Which is also what I plan on doing to avoid my next piracy conviction/dishwashing session. Plead my belly.

6. Pirates Were Pretty Fair Guys

smiling pirate

For one thing, the captain and his second in command were actually elected by the crew, and injured pirates were usually given a kind of disability compensation. Plus, runaway slaves and Native Americans were given a fair share on pirate ships, when they probably wouldn’t have gotten the same kind of opportunities anywhere else.

On the other hand, walking the plank was a real thing, and there were several recorded instances of unfortunate schmoes having to do it.

7. Buried Treasure: Not Real

buried treasure

Only one famous pirate was known to do it, and that was because he was supposed to be privateering on behalf of the English, but got a little piratey while he was at it and wanted to keep his treasure for himself. Otherwise, the notion of buried treasure was strictly for novel writers. For one thing, most raided ships weren’t exactly dripping in gold; they were more likely full of supplies, water and weapons. For another, pirates usually split their plunder among the crew, and then the crew actually had to live on what they got. Burying their pay in the sand makes as much sense as you and I putting our debit cards in a lockbox, then shoving that lockbox under a napping sumo wrestler.

8. Talk Like a Pirate Entry

steve the pirate

Ahoy, Jack! Ye best be stayin’ away from the wenches lest ye be havin’ a son of a biscuit eater! Yo ho ho! Avast, me hearty! Don’t be givin’ me the black mark jes’ because I was playin’ the squiffy! Yo ho ho! By the powers! Let’s grab some grog and get loaded to the Gunwales.

Translation: Hey, buddy! You better stay away from the hoes or you’ll have a bastard baby! Ha ha ha! Stop, playa! Don’t be hatin’. I was just joking. Ha ha ha! Hey! Let’s get a drink and get wasted.

10. Somali Pirates are No Joke

somali pirates

On the next “Talk Like a Pirate Day” figure out how to say, “Get off your boat or I will shoot you with my Kalashnikov” in Somali. See if anyone laughs.

If they do, it’s probably because they don’t know about how awful the whole Somali pirate situation is, like how most of the pirates are former fishermen who got pissed about illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in their waters, or that the pirates themselves end up funding horrific warlords. Or that US courts aren’t yukking it up over pirates, either, especially after convicting the first pirates in almost 200 years in November of last year. LOL PIRATES!

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