How “Talk Like A Pirate Day” Became A Sensation

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.

John Baur and Mark Summers

John Baur and Mark Summers

Talk Like a Pirate Day

John Baur and Mark Summers are co-founders of Talk Like A Pirate Day, a day where everyone gets a chance to talk like a pirate on September 19th every year.

A few lessons from this program

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?

  • 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!

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  • 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


  • 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.

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  • Name


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

  • Edna O’Brien

    Always loved pirates. I love boats, and the Sea, and the fact that they are Rebels who account to no one, and refuse to be oppressed by Governments or laws which serve only a tiny minority of the population but try to brainwash and bully the rest of society into conformity and submission.

    I first read Frenchman’s Creek, by Daphne Du Maurier as a young girl–and was entranced–by the 2 main characters, Cornwall, and the romantic, independence of being a Pirate. First country I visited beyond North America was England–and then went straight to Cornwall. It was Heaven and felt immediately like Home.

    Swashbuckling rebels who sail the seas–brave, bold, romantic and a symbol of freedom at a time -then and now–of a free soul–unhindered by government or societal norms,silly rules., and silly laws

    The image of a traditional pyrate appeals to the free spirit–and those who long to be free–and their own Mistress/Master. Sort of a Pre-Cowboy sort of icon–just in England instead of the American West–and on water instead of land. Same spirit–a loner–unfettered by social norms and a romantic hero–and heroine– living a life of adventure–independent free thinkers.. Plus a bit of Robin Hood as well–fighting the corrupt Establishment and helping the Poor and the Powerless to have a say in the way they live their lives.

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