Pirates are insanely popular today. Everything from infant onesies to restaurant walls bear the Jolly Roger and images of pirates on the high seas. Pirate “facts” cover the Internet, but many of these are unsubstantiated and come from tall tales and modern movies. The actual “Golden Age” of piracy may have been a lot different from what you think.
10. Nautical Lingo
Pirates really did have their own nautical lingo, and we still use many of these rebellious seafarers’ phrases today. “Learn the ropes” is a phrase that today means “become familiar with the way something should be done.” This comes directly from needing to literally know the complex network of pulleys and ropesthat controlled a ship’s sails. Being able to tie the proper knot and pull the correct rope to open or close a sail was important know-how for any sailor.
We can find pubs called “Three Sheets to the Wind” all over the English speaking world. Today it means to be drunk, but the phrase doesn’t come from drunken pirates. The sheet is the rope which controls the sails. If multiple lines ran loose, the sails would flap at the wind’s mercy and pirates would lose control of the ship. This is why the phrase now refers to a drunk—an out-of-control drunk.
Not only did pirates integrate nautical jargon into their cultural language, they also mixed languages. Pirating was a multinational and borderless culture of the sea.
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