How “Talk Like A Pirate Day” Became A Sensation – Interview With The Founders

Promo Videos

A few lessons from this program

Ahoy, me hearty!

Have you noticed how every September 19, people around the world start talking like pirates and web sites start writing like pirates? It’s called “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” and it’s gotten so big that it was even celebrated on the International Space Station.

I wanted to find out where it started and how it spread, so I could learn how ideas take off. That’s why I interviewed the two founders, John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers. Here’s what I learned from them.

Random & fun: This was the most disturbing aspect for me. I like to think that everything can be planned. If you listen to my interview, you’ll hear me constantly ask for the techniques the two founders used to grow their movement (that’s what I do). And they keep telling me there was no business plan. It just happened.

Simple publicity: The only formal publicity they did was email humor columnist Dave Barry. They told him how one day on a raquet ball court they started talking like pirates and that their friends thought it was so cool that they too started talking like pirates. They asked Barry to run with it and he did.

What trademark? I think a key reason that Talk Like a Pirate Day spread is that Baur and Summers allowed anyone to run with it, no limits. You can sell tshirts, call yourself “the official” this or that of Talk Like a Pirate Day, or do whatever you want with the concept without asking their permission. That opens people up to creativity and helps the idea spread virally.

You can be uptight: Another reason the “holiday” spread so fast is that anyone can do it. You just have to toss an “Ahoy!” or “me heart!” into your conversation and that’s it.

Why do you think “Talk Like a Pirate Day” spread so widely?

  • PCLicious Video Tutorials

    Its funny I found this post when searching for “Talk Like A Pirate Day”, some guy in town was dressed as a pirate & said it was talk like a pirate day, but I see it starts September 19th LOL.

    This is hilarious but nice to hear how these guys started it!

    Interested in learning computer tips by video demonstration? Please check my website out: PCLicious Video Tutorials

  • Jacqueleeen

    Great video, nice post. Talk Like A Pirate Day has always been an inside joke for those “in the know” but it seems to be getting more and more popular over time. I think I’ve been drawn to it for 2 reasons: 1- the complete and utter ridiculousness of the “holiday”, and 2- the look on people’s faces when they first hear about Talk Like A Pirate Day.

  • Andrew Warner

    Jacqueleeen: I wonder if being limited to those in the know helped it build the credibility to spread.

  • Richard


  • M!hai @ Freshome

    Andrew should investigate more things like this who became popular, and try to reveal the secrets behind their success.

  • Ed Mitton

    I have a comment on why TLAPD has been so popular. It’s because the Golden Age of piracy is part of our psyche. We, as a world society are immensely fascinated by the whole pirate thing. What kid has never fantasized about the romance of the pirate world? How many have professed at some point in their young life, “I want ot grow up to be a pirate!”
    Why are pirate movies and pirate-themed park attractions top draws? Jeez, when I was in elementary school I pored over every library book about pirates I could get me grubby hands on! Back in the goodle days (before PC squashed creativity), we reveled in playing ‘pirates’ on the school playground, using the jungle gym as our galleon, giving the kids on the swings (treasure ships) a heart y broadside, before engaging in a spirited sword fight using imaginary swords. The aftermath of such battles resulted in ‘dead’ bodies strewn about the playground – temporarily of course, until the recess bell rang, or we decided to stage another ‘plundering raid’.
    So, it stands to reason that Talk Like A Pirate Day is so astoundingly popular. It’s merely an extension of this process, surfacing in adulthood. Pirate ‘stuff is part of our being. It’s in our blood, deeply engrained in our collective consciousness. All that was need was a catalyst, the tiniest spark capable of setting off an explosion on a global scale! That is precisely what Cap’n Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket provided.

  • Carol

    I think the ITLAP Day movement has been helped a lot by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Dave Barry wrote the column in 2002, right? Pirates of the Caribbean 1 was released in 2003. Pirates became popular, and more people noticed or looked up pirate-related stuff.

  • Cap'n Cardfish

    Arrrrrr, me beauty – here be an offer worth it's weight in pieces of eight!

    What better way to celebrate Talk Like a blasted Pirate day than with a FREE mangy eCard featuring your good self talking like a salty sea dog of a Pirate?

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  • Thomson_Gold

    I'm not finished read this yet, but it's so fabulous 'n I'll back again when I was finished my job :D