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Ford column: Pirate English always makes me smile

The thugs and criminals hijacking cargo ships off the coast of Somalia are giving pirates a bad name.
Pirates are supposed to be revered, not reviled. They’re charming and resourceful men with swords and peg legs, not teenagers with military fatigues and machine guns.Some pirate enthusiasts want to create a different word for the current incarnation.
Mark Summers, who co-founded the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day, suggests “sea-thugs,” “boat-muggers” or “kelp-festooned kidnappers.”
While I applaud the effort, the Somali outlaws taking hostages and chasing down cruise ships are indeed pirates as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.(They are not, however, terrorists, as my son points out. Terrorism is the use of violence or the threat of violence for political purposes. These pirates, like those who first plundered 8,000 years ago, just want to get rich.)Still, recent violence on the high seas has detracted from our romanticized view of pirates.For years, we’ve enjoyed the sanitized version of pirates, those swashbuckling adventurers who loved the freedom of the open seas and knew how to throw a good party.
Henry’s favorite book for years was “I Wish I Were a Pirate,” which taught him to dress, act, eat and talk like a pirate.
His “Bluebeard” costume is still one of my favorites. He wore purple pants, rubber boots, a hat and a puffy shirt, a la Seinfeld.I crisscrossed belts over his chest, pinned a parrot to his shoulder and painted a blue beard and black eye patch on his face.”Scurvy knave!” he said with an “arrr!”
Pirates became fictionalized characters that we feared but also idolized, like vampires.
Pirates became heroes.
But now, real pirates have taken hundreds of merchant sailors hostage in more than a dozen ships for ransom.
Now, the captain who survived a pirate attack and the snipers who freed him are the true heroes.
Is this the end for pirates? Will kids still dress up like Blackbeard for Halloween? Will the Pittsburgh Pirates change their name?
Will Johnny Depp be denied another “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie sequel?
I doubt it. Actually, interest in pirates has only grown since the International Maritime Bureau reported a record 102 attacks in the first quarter of 2009.
Pirate-themed festivals like Buc Days in Corpus Christi, Texas, have gone on as planned. A Capt. Jack Sparrow impersonator in New York City reports that business is brisk.
And, as the most fun example of how pirates still intrigue us, Facebook now offers “pirate” English.
Go to the bottom left-hand corner of your page and click “English.” Change to “English (Pirate).”
Ahoy!
Facebook turns into an 18th century pirate ship, where you “scrawl upon a fresh plank” when you write on someone’s wall, “cast yer bottle into the sea” when you compose a message, and “divvy spoils t’ all ye mateys” when you share a photo.
Deleting something is “send to Davy Jones’ locker” and logging out is “abandon ship.”
When someone wants to see your page, Facebook says “this sorry lout thinks y’ might be mates.”
Despite modern pirates pillaging and plundering off the Horn of Africa, pirate English makes me smile.
And the kid who shows up on Oct. 31 with a blue beard and a fake parrot gets a whole handful of candy.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.

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