Arr, mateys! Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and we be celebratin'!
First, ye must practice yer pirate talk. There's a great database called Mango Languages that you can access through the Manatee County Public Library website by clicking on the "Research & Learning" link. Among the languages Mango will tutor you in is Pirate. Lessons range from finding the correct way to address a friend to inverting the simple sentence structure and understanding the usage of "be." Sprinkled in with language lessons are useful cultural notes. For example, while "lass" and "wench" both refer to a woman, it's generally impolite to call someone a wench to her face.
For more pirate vocabulary and culture, check out "The Pirate Dictionary" by Terry Breverton. The author has compiled a list of words and phrases that are nautical in origin, and will explain such mysteries as why it is unlucky to kill an albatross, and what exactly is a "bog orange" anyway? This is an annotated dictionary -- that is, a term isn't defined by just a few words, but explained with its origin and cultural background.
If you'd like a swashbuckling adventure story to fall into, "Pirate Latitudes," one of Michael Crichton's last books, tells the story of Port Royal, Jamaica, which in 1665 was a city comprised mostly of grog shops and cut-throats. The word in town is that a gold-laden Spanish treasure galleon has arrived and is awaiting repairs in a heavily-fortified port, and Capt. Edward Hunter (not technically a pirate, but a privateer -- a pirate with the backing of the government) wants it. But it's not as easy as it sounds.
Beginning scallywags will enjoy "Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC" by June Sobel. The captain in this story -- an alligator -- decides that "R" just isn't enough. "We need other letters to help make us tough," he declares, and he and his crew of swashbuckling creatures set off to capture one of every letter in the alphabet.
Slightly older buccaneers may prefer "Dagger Quick" by Brian Eames, which follows the story of 12-year-old Christopher, who is forced to flee his hometown after being accused of murdering his father. With his mother and younger brother kidnapped, Christopher's only available relation is an uncle he hardly knows -- an uncle, as it happens, who is an infamous pirate.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Access the library online at www.mymanatee.org/library.html.