As we all know, International Talk Like a Pirate Day is upon us. It’s an important day, well worth celebrating, but please people, don’t say “argh” and think you are properly entering the spirit of things. The proper pirate exclamation is “arrrrr” (with as many “r”s as you like – go nuts!), or, if you prefer, “yarr”. But not, “argh”.
“But you don’t understand!” I hear you shouting, “When I say ‘argh’ the ‘g’ is silent! Also sort of the ‘h’, though really, who can tell? I mean, sometimes I sort of let fly with a breathy ‘hu’ sound at the end when I’m going for a sexy pirate sound, but really, the ‘gh’ is basically a unit. And like I said, I don’t pronounce it.”
Well, look. For one thing I see poor misguided souls lurching around in eye patches with stuffed parrots on their shoulder saying “argh” with the trailing ‘g’ all the time. Think of those folks making fools of themselves and try to set an example, would you? For another thing, “argh” already clearly fills the role of a general exclamation of distress, while the piratical “arr” is more of a generalized interjection. I am by nature a descriptivist, but clearly we need both words, and it is in the best interests of the language to properly differentiate them. English is confusing enough as it is.