Here Are Some Facts About Pirates That Will Make You See Them In A New Light

Here Are Some Facts About Pirates That Will Make You See Them In A New Light

Whether it is from 'Pirates of the Caribean' or 'One Piece', we only know the media version of what pirates look like and do.

The image and perception we have of pirates come mostly from popular media. Whether it is from Pirates of the Caribean or One Piece, we only know the media version of what pirates look like and do. But there is some truth in how they are represented while a lot is obviously exaggerated for entertainment purposes. 

Jack Sparrow

Learning some actual facts about real pirates may help us appreciate the pirates we see onscreen more, probably even putting to rest some stereotypes. Here arrr some facts that you may not have known:

1. The pirate flags have a name

The signature black flag with the skull and crossbones is something we associate with pirates. It has been used by pirates for centuries to indicate their criminal intent at sea. The flag is called the Jolly Roger and not everyone used the same type of flag either but a variation of the same. The Jolly Roger was flown to indicate the pirate ship was about to attack.

2. Blackbeard was a very real pirate who existed

Captain Edward Teach or Thatch, who died in 1718, was also known as the pirate Blackbeard, circa 1715. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0451 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Blackbeard was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain's North American colonies. His real name was Edward Teach and he did terrorize the seas in the 17th century. He has, over the years, reached legend status. Blackbeard was the main antagonist of the 2011 live-action Disney film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

3. Pirates did wear eye patches

Source: Disney Enterprises, Inc./Stephen Vaughan

Pirates wore eye patches on board but most of the time, it was not because they were missing an eye. It was for the practical purpose of getting their eyes adjusted more quickly between the bright ship deck and the dark belowdecks. With one eye always adjusted for the darkness, it was easier for them to navigate the ship, as per E. Bruce Goldstein as mentioned in the book Sensation and Perception.

4. Pirates were not just thieves at sea

The general belief about pirates is that they waited out at sea to plunder ships that passed by. While this is a general perception that exists, most of them were ordinary people who had been forced to turn to criminal activity to make ends meet. It was not total anarchy on pirate ships either. There were pirates who set off looking for treasure but there were some who demanded much more basic necessities like food and medicine as well from other ships.

5. They do not have the accent

The pirate accent is a Disney invention. The pirate lingo we know comes from the 1950 Disney film, Treasure Island, starring Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Colin Woodard, the author of The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, told National Geographic that there is no evidence that pirates ever spoke the way we assume they do with the "arrrs," "avast," and "shiver me timbers." 

6. Pirates are not as fashionable as in the movies

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean seem to be well-dressed in their ruffly vintage wear. "Pirates wore typical maritime clothing of the day, with pirate captains and those with more money donning more expensive outfits," historian Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos, author of the book The Pirate Next Door, told Georgetown University. What they did have on were earrings but it had more to do with dealing with seasickness than making a fashion statement. 

7. There are no plank walks 

A common punishment we see in pirate movies is walking the plank. But real pirate ships did not have this punishment. Some pirate captains were vicious but making ship prisoners walk the plank is considered to be a myth mostly. They would rather deliver swift punishment or, in other cases, abandon the people on deserted islands. 

8. There were women pirates too

Even the world of piracy is a man's world, like the rest of the world. But there were some women pirates who were just as accomplished and terrifying as their male counterparts. In fact, one of the most powerful pirates in history was a woman, Madame Ching Shih, who commanded more than 300 ships. She first co-commanded with her husband and later took over after his death.


9. Parrots were actually kept as pirate pets

Source: IMDb

A screeching parrot on a pirate's shoulder is also something we see in movies and shows. There is some truth to this. "The parrot trope is almost certainly grounded in reality," Woodard stated, as per Atlas Obscura. This was more common during the "Golden Age of Piracy" when pirates were rich and spent a long time at sea. The journey would get lonely and a pet was desired. Larger animals were not practical and this led them to choose birds as pets.

10. Pirates are prevalent as ever


Modern-day pirates are still prevalent all over the world and can currently be found sailing the waters of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the coasts of Africa. Somalia is considered the most notorious source of today’s pirates.

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