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In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, I’d like to ask a question about the pirate dialect of English. Most pirate sentences begin with a standard pirate-sounding hedge to lend authenticity.

A frequent hedge is arr, but the variations yar, yarr, and yargh are also quite common. Is there a distinction in meaning between arr and the yar variants, or are these simply different spellings of the same exclamation? For instance, is yar a contraction of yes and arr, therefore implying an affirmation or agreement?

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    Off-topic: You should post this at pirate-talk.stackexchange.com
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 1:31
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    Avast, me matey, EL&U be pirate.SE on this fine September day!
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 1:36
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    Belay that, JeffSahol, ye must be addled to be a-thinking of such bilge!
    – Thursagen
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 7:35
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    I be seeing many answers, but none that has a sourcin'...
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 12:03
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    If none can answer well, they can all walk the plank, you cyber lubbers! Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 19:28

5 Answers 5

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JeffSahol be right, tis usually a placeholder but nay, it be not as 'like' in ValSpeak for tis always an exclamation. Ye hear many a pirate say "Arrr!" meanin' aye, but Long John Silver ere, ee meant it oft times as nay!, as ye may see with yer own pirate eyes and ears in this ere video clip.

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It be like "ano" in Japanese, me boy, or "like" in valspeak, a verbal placeholder.

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"Yarr: v. i. 1. To growl or snarl as a dog." — Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by C. & G. Merriam Co. The top definition on Urban Dictionary agrees.

I think the positive meaning relates to "yare" (Adjective 1. Ready; dexterous; eager; lively; quick to move. Adverb 1. Soon. — Websters). As does this page:

According to the Dictionary of English Nautical Language Database, "yare," also pronounced "yahr" and derived from the Old High German word, "garo," meaning "ready," refers to a well-designed, easy-to-handle boat. "Yar" is also connected to the Gaelic word, "garbh," meaning "rugged," which accounts for the naming of the River Yar on the Isle of Wight.

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  • Very interesting. I've never heard of that word before. Thanks!
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Aug 1, 2012 at 10:34
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    Yare - Surely it's "Adjective 1. Ready; &c"? @KitFox, you'll find 'yarely' used in Tmp I,i. Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 3:01
  • @StoneyB, good catch. I've sent Cassidy an email about that. Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 11:13
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I'd be contendin' that 'Yarrrgh!!' would be an affirmation' of yer yabberin'; whereas 'Aaarrghh!' would be refutin' yer spurious claims.

Yaarrrgghh!!

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    Uh, this is very interesting. Hopefully any other contributions you choose to make here will not be so piratey.
    – user11550
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 23:24
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No, this is a battle cry, used in pirate times. It had developed from German. It also is defo right so avast ye, ye scurvy barnacles

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