John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Say 'Arrrrrrrr'

With International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) just a couple of weeks off, here is an important reminder:

A pirate’s rhotic growl is rendered thus: Arrrrrrr, with the number of consonants at your discretion.

Arrrrrrgh is an expression of disappointment, distress, anguish. It is thus not appropriate for pirate talk and should not be confused with Arrrrrrr.

Please note this particularly for headline and caption purposes.

9 comments:

  1. I read this a long time ago, and, unfortunately, I cannot remember where. But apparently there was an editor at the New York Times in the '60s who would always cut words like arghhhhhh to arghhh. Why? Because three is enough, he said. I would have to agree with him. I don't believe the number of final repeated consonants is discretionary.

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  2. But what if the pirate is distressed and expressing himself?

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  3. People often add lots of w's to "Aww!". I did a little Google research, and 127 w's has 190 ghits -- Google won't handle words bigger than that.

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  4. Um... why do people care so much about this stupid "holiday"?

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  5. if you have to ask, you'd never understand the answer

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  6. I thought this issue was resolved back in the day when Charles Shultz's comic strip "Peanuts" was at its zenith. Charlie Brown frequently swore the latter oath, and it was not piratical. Pam has a very good point, however. Sept. 19 is my kid's birthday, and I fully intend to dress like Anne Bonny just because I can. Perhaps I should let [my] inner pirate check [my] mental state.

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  7. There should never be an even number of r's in arrr. That would be unpiratical.

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  8. You kill me! Thank you so much for the heads-up. Every year, people write about this on their homeschooling blogs after the day. I don't want to miss the chance to annoy my children this year; I'm writing it on the calendar.

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  9. I hear there's a new pirate movie coming out. It's rated Arrrrrr.

    Retired in Elkridge

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