Friday, September 18, 2009

Talk like a pirate day

Saturday - September 19 - is "International Talk Like A Pirate Day", a faux holiday of sorts during which we're encouraged to say "Arr" and "Ahoy matey" a lot. It's all meant in the spirit(s) of good fun, a means to lighten the mood in bars and marinas while sharing drinks with friends. And while I'm reluctant to rain on anyone's weekend fun, I would point out that some people don't necessarily think it a good thing to be making light of pirates, at least given the modern-day problems going on around the world.

I'm reminded of a mariner I talked to about his run-in with armed pirates a few years back. He was involved in an incident that left him partially deaf in one ear thanks to a Kalashnikov fired off by one of the attackers and, since then, says he can never look at those pirate flags people like to fly in a lighthearted way: The symbolism actually reminds him of a Nazi swastika banner. Indeed, a few folks have told me they think having a day to encourage talking like a pirate is akin to people in the Second World War holding a "Talk Like A Fascist Day".

Well this might be a bit of an extreme attitude and I don't really think we need any type of political correctness involved here. The idea of Saturday's parody holiday is not to glamorize today's maritime criminals, just hoist some pints of ale or tots of rum and relax. But while doing so, it might be fitting to remember all those who endured pirate attacks this year, because it's been a brutal year so far.

According to the International Maritime Bureau's statistics for the first six months of 2009, there were 240 officially reported incidents worldwide - more than double the same period last year. And between January and July, 561 people were held hostage by pirates (there were 889 hostages held for all of 2008, the highest that had ever been reported in the modern era).

Enjoy the drinks ye lads and lasses. Oh, and personally, I'd suggest that if you really want to talk like a pirate, pick up a Somali-language phrasebook.

Footnote: The Somali man accused of taking part in the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama last April and captured by American forces, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, made an appearance in a Manhattan courthouse on Thursday. As AP reports, Muse appeared before U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in what amounted to a three-minute hearing. It was decided that further court proceedings against the suspect will be delayed until January 12 of next year.

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