If you want to know more about pirates, it’s best to crack open a history book because Hollywood’s portrayal of them is far from accurate. We’re talking about you, Pirates of the Caribbean scriptwriters. Yes, we know it’s just entertainment, but these films were popular enough to influence our perception of the fearsome sailors of the Seven Seas. Here are some of Hollywood’s exaggerated or straight-up lies about pirates.
1. Pirates Said “Argh” and “Shiver Me Timbers”
Sorry to ruin this one for you, but pirates did not have a special way of speaking. It makes sense since they were just regular sailors. So where did their distinct vocabulary come from? Well, it started with Robert Barrymore improvising the line “arrrgh!” during the 1934 version of the Treasure Island film. Then actor Robert Newton liked it so much that he did the same in the 1950 version of the film, and even infused some of his country accent and slang into the script. And that was all it took for these phrases to be embedded in our memories.
2. Pirates Wore Eyepatches
Next time you dress up as a pirate for Halloween, be sure to ditch the eyepatch. That’s because there’s barely any historical evidence to suggest that eyepatches were part of the pirate starter-pack. In fact, there’s only one pirate who’s been known to wear one, but that’s because he lost an eye in battle. If you’re still in disbelief, maybe this theory will put you at ease. Some people believe that pirates wore eye patches so that one eye could become accustomed to the dark, because it takes the human eye nearly 25 minutes to adjust from bright sunlight to total darkness.
3. Pirates Buried Their Treasure, Regularly
Pirates weren’t keen on saving, so burying their hard-earned loot was the last thing on their minds. The loot wasn’t always silver and gold, sometimes it could’ve been fabric, cocoa and spices. And once they got their hands on it, the crew quickly divided it among themselves according to their ranks, with the captain getting the largest share. The only time they did bury their treasure was so they could hide it from their enemies. Like that time English pirate Sir Francis Drake hid tons of gold and silver from the Spanish by burying it along the Panamanian coast, only to retrieve it later once they were gone.
4. Pirates Walked the Plank
Theatrics weren’t part of the pirate lifestyle. If they wanted to punish someone, they’d resort to flogging, marooning, throwing them overboard and even downright murder. Taunting their victims to jump off a plank just wasn’t their style, plus most pirates could swim since they worked at sea. The idea of pirates walking the plank came from the 1724 Robinson Crusoe novel by Daniel Dfoe, whose work influenced other writers and filmmakers to do the same. If it wasn’t for him, then maybe Hollywood wouldn’t run those plank scenes to the ground.
5. Pirate Ships Were Enormous
When you think about pirates sailing the Seven Seas, you’d imagine them doing so with large, three-masted galleons accompanied by a bunch of cannons. Pirates may have found them to be inconvenient as they were large and sunk deep below the waterline. So smaller, single-masted sloops were their vessels of choice, as it made for much quicker getaways. Hollywood, on the other hand, preferred to equip their pirates with larger vessels because it made filming easier as they had more room for the equipment and actors. And it made the pirates seem more intimidating, don’t you agree?
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