Arrrr! Shiver me timbers! We weren’t going to post anything today, but it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day! How can we resist? Jen-Luc Piquant has donned her best pirate garb in honor of the occasion, and has been boning up on her piratical syntax via this handy online training video. Everyone who’s anyone is linking to it like crazy, because, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a bona fide pirate movement sweeping the land. We have waxed poetical about the science of pirates in a prior post, enthusing over Gideon DeFoe‘s whimsical Pirates! series, and recently stumbled across this handy reference tool listing famous pirates throughout the ages..
Every holiday needs a commercial tie-in, and manufacturers of fine pirate gear and other related products are no doubt making a capitalist killing, all in the name legal plunder. However, there’s no excuse for crass marketing ploys like this one, found courtesy of the twisted piratical mind of P.Z. Myers. So, so wrong, in so many different ways…. And yet, Jen-Luc Piquant points out that said "feminine products" would most likely have been welcomed by the notorious Anne Bonney, the most famous female pirate in history. It’s tough to live day in and day out onboard a ship with a bunch of swarthy swabbies, and no doubt there were days when Anne felt "less than fresh."
Needless to say, Jen-Luc Piquant greatly admires Anne Bonney, and considers her something of a kindred spirit for her rebellious independence. (Although bear in mind that Jen-Luc suffers from an acute narcissistic personality disorder; it’s unlikely Bonney was anything like her.) It’s a rip-roaring yarn: Born sometime between 1697 and 1705, Anne was the daughter of an Irish attorney who revealed her wild side early on, purportedly stabbing a servant girl in the belly with a table knife at the tender age of 13. Small wonder she eloped three years later with a sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonney, thereby embarking on a life filled with adventure and unsavory companions.
Eventually she left her husband to go a-pirating with her lover, Calico Jack Rackham, disguised (at least at first) as a man. She even had a best friend in fellow female plunderer Mary Read. According to Wikipedia, Anne "was by all accounts competent, good in combat, and respected within pirate ranks." In fact, when their ship was attacked by Jamaican troops in October 1720, Anne and Mary fought better, and more fiercely, than their male compatriots — in part because the men were too sloshed to put up much resistance.
Everyone ended up in a stank Jamaican prison, and sentenced to hanging. (Far from being supportive, Anne apparently told Calico Jack, when he asked to see her one last time, that while she was sorry for his ultimate fate, "If you had fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog." Ouch!) Anne and Mary tried to plead pregnancy (apparently they really were pregnant), but this only bought them temporary reprieve until they gave birth. Mary died of fever shortly after giving birth (so did her baby), but Anne disappeared from historical record, and most historians believe she must have set up a new life somewhere under an assumed name. There is no record of her death. She hardly seems the sort who would have faded into quiet obscurity, but for all we know, she ended her days by a cozy hearth fire, knitting baby booties for her score of grandkids. We’d like to think that if nothing else, she continued to indulge occasionally in salty pirate speech.
While we don’t have a built-in pirate mode here at Cocktail Party Physics, you can translate this, and any other blog post, into Pirate Speak from here. The day’s festivities got us to thinking about what it would take to institute an annual Talk Like a Physicist Day. I think we need one. C’mon, let’s pillage the concept and make it our own. How cool would it be to have physics-mania sweep the nation, with everyone going crazy for scientific gear, competing for the wildest demos, and vying over who can best mimic that inimitable Physicist-Speak? Here’s a few rudimentary, off-the-cuff pointers for daring neophytes willing to take the plunge.
1. Never say anything in clear, direct English if you can obfuscate it with technical jargon. (This also works beautifully in literary criticism; just check out the writings of Jacques Lacan.) For instance, if someone asks you how, exactly, radio signals are encoded, toss off this jaunty phrase: "Oh, you just modulate the amplitude of the sine wave!" All the scientists out there understand this immediately, but trust me, to the average American, the sentence conveys no actual meaning, even though they listen to their radios every day.
2. Use terms like "orders of magnitude" to describe significant differences of scale.
3. A particularly challenging task is not "difficult"; rather, the problems to be overcome are "nontrivial," probably because of large (and therefore difficult to predict/calculate) "perturbations."
4. It’s not that the course of true love never runs smooth; it is filled with turbulence and bifurcations.
That’s just a random sampling of some of the most common physicist turns of phrase; you get the idea. Feel free to suggest your own favorite examples of impenetrable Physics Speak. We can collect them into a handy Talk Like a Physicist lexicon, maintained on its very own Website (somebody reserve that domain name, stat!). And can a training film on YouTube be far behind?