Today, as every schoolboy knows, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. First observed in 1995, the day is celebrated by adopting the speech patterns of the stereotypical corsairs of the Golden Age of Piracy from 1650 to 1720: "Avast!" replaces "Stop!", "Ahoy" is used instead of "Hello," and "Aaargh!" is substituted for "Jesus F**king Christ" when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
The day got a big boost in 2002 when humorist Dave Barry first touted it in his nationally-syndicated column, and the rest is history of the back-to-the-future kind. Once enough people started talking like pirates--pirates came back.
Piracy is one of those social ills like prostitution and political corruption that is only charming in the past. Arid, sterile Government Center in Boston was plunked down on Scollay Square, a lively neighborhood of burlesque houses and bars, because too many people were getting knifed and robbed there. Now, people write charming, sentimental songs and books about the place, precisely because they never paid the price for a lady of the evening only to get rolled by her pimp.
The pirates of the new millenium are very much like the pirates of old; ruthless brigands who live by plunder, and don't hesitate to kill civilians who get in their way. They deserve to be imitated in a whimsical fashion about as much as terrorists--and I haven't heard anyone proposing an International Talk Like an Islamofascist Day.
So it is time, regrettably, to lay Talk Like a Pirate Day to rest. But what, you ask, am I going to do to be stupid today? I could say that you've got plenty of material to work with--but I won't. Instead, I'm going to give you some practical suggestions on how you can turn an unofficial anti-social holiday into an uplifting day of imitating your choice of several people:
Talk Like Michael McDonald Day: I used to be a big fan of this guy, but I have to admit; after listening to him for thirty years, I've maybe understood about thirty words he's sung. "You Belong to Me," are four of them, and they are repeated in half his repertoire, so there's even some double-counting involved. I was shocked--shocked!--a few years ago to learn that he has been lumped with wimpy singers Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross into a sub-genre derisively referred to as "Yacht Rock," meaning the kind of music you'd expect to hear as you sat down to dine on somebody's multi-million dollar boat for a light lunch of lobster salad with a crisp Vouvray to complement it. Well--what's so wrong with that?
But I hit rock bottom when the Jane Lynch character in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" draws the ire of her employees by turning all of the TV sets in the electronics store she manages to a tape of McDonald. Okay--all right--I get it. He's no longer the coolest guy around. Sorta like me.
Anyway, to celebrate Talk Like Michael McDonald Day, clamp your jaws together, leaving only a slight aperture at the front; pick a note in the middle of your range--nothing too high or low--and stick to it. Now, say the magic words: "Nomoregoodbyesbabeyou'nmewe'regonnamakeit-
You are so freaking--cool!
Talk Like Mae Questel Day: How soon we forget the unforgettable voices of the past, like Mae Questel. Mae was the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in Max Fleischer cartoons, and late in life an actress in commercials for Bounty paper towels. She first came to the attention of Fleischer with her signature "Boop-boop-a-doop" line, which was considered naughty at the time. It was a more innocent era.
In order to successfully imitate Questel it is not necessary to achieve a falsetto; the trick is to manipulate the pronunciation of simple sounds: "I" becomes "oi," for example, recalling Dorothy Parker's comment upon meeting a woman with an exaggerated Southern accent: "I didn't know 'egg' had three syllables," Parker said.
Questel is best invoked while in line at a busy store--say when you're getting coffee. "Can I help who's next?" the overworked and overeducated counter person asks, to which you answer:
"Oi'd loik a half-caf soi choi latte from you--nobody but you--poo-poo-pe-do!"
People behind you will really appreciate the time you spend perfecting this difficult but essential character in the history of animated cartoons.
Talk Like Slim Gaillard Day
Slim was half of the jazz novelty duo "Slim and Slam," the other half being Slam Stewart, the bassist who hummed along when he bowed his strings, producing an antic but full-bodied sound that was half-played, half-sung. Slim's contribution to the American language was a form of hipster slang that he called "Vout," which he memorialized in a dictionary.
His biggest hit was "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)," but my favorite is the less well-known "Slim's Jam," in which Slim greets Dizzy Gillespie as "Daz-mac-skivvins-vous-o-rooney" and Charlie Parker as "Charlie Yardbird-o-rooney." You can imagine the possibilities.
So next time you're pulled over by the police because your inspection sticker has expired, or you failed to yield the right of way in a traffic rotary, try this time-tested response:
"Why ossifer-o-rooney, I was on my way to pick up some avocado seed soup for my ailing parrot, who has the grippe-o-rooney. You wouldn't want to floogie my woogie in a dank ol' skivvinsy cell, now would you?"
Remember, you get one free phone call when you're in jail. Just don't call me.