Pirates have been romanticized by story writers and Hollywood to the point where we believe many of the myths surrounding them as facts.
Here are ten myths about pirates that have been proven to have no basis in fact.
10. Pirate Lingo
“Shiver me timbers”, “Avast me mateys”, and “Arrgh” are all common phrases heard in the best pirate movies. While Jack Sparrow mumbled his way through Pirates of the Caribbean, most of his crew used these phrases at one time or another, effectively emphasizing that this was authentic pirate talk.
This is, sadly, all Hollywood’s creation. Pirates most probably spoke in a manner similar to all British sailors of the time, along with a spattering of curse words picked up from French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Arabic.
9. All pirates flew the skull and crossbones
The skull and crossbones, or “Jolly Roger”, was flown by many pirates, but not everyone flew the same flag. Pirate captains designed their own flags, and while many were based loosely on the skull and crossbones, many others used skeletons or plain colors.
8. Pirates were a bloodthirsty bunch
Pirates, like most marauders, were very well aware of the dangers inherent in battle. The dangers of valuable members of the crew being injured or killed meant that pirate captains relied upon their bloodthirsty reputation to try and take a prize with as little bloodshed as possible.
They were also businessmen who knew that their pay came from selling captured ships and their cargoes, so they were loathe to take the risk of a valuable cargo being damaged by cannon fire or, worse still, of sinking the prized ship and losing all chance of a payday.
7. Pirate ships were chaotic places to live in
Many pirate crews and their ships were far more orderly and disciplined than most merchant ships and many Naval vessels. Pirates subscribed to a code of conduct, called the Articles of Agreement, which ruled the behavior of those on board. Most of these codes prohibited gambling and insisted that arms be kept at the ready; they also provided punishments for disobeying the rules.
6. Pirate captains ruled with an iron fist
Most pirate captains deserved their bloody reputations, but they did not rule the ship’s company with an iron fist, and most were not in a position to abuse the ship’s company. Pirate captains were voted into power and, so long as they found ships to plunder and provided for the crew, they were allowed to lead. But unlike merchant vessel captains who wielded absolute power, pirate captains depended on the crew to keep them in the captain’s cabin.
In addition to electing the captain, the crew elected a quartermaster, who wielded almost as much authority as the captain and could be used to balance the captain’s authority.
5. Pirates buried their loot and came back to it later
Pirates understood that their life expectancy was not long and they tended to spend their money as fast as they made it. Any shore leave was used to spend almost everything they made in prize money on booze and loose women. The people who made real money were those entrepreneurs that set up shop and supplied these services to the crews in places such as Port Royal, Nassau, Barbados, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.