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?

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