“Judge me by my size, do you?” – Yoda
“Judge me by me size, do ye?” – Red Suarez, fictional pirate.
Eerie, isn’t it? Try this one:
“The future I cannot see” – Yoda
“The future I cannot see” – Cap’t Jack Sparrow.
Call me crazy, but I’m seeing a definite link between the syntactically challenged English Yoda speaks and the educationally challenged middle English spoken by fictional pirates. A link, a connection, a commonality.
Try it. Take any Yoda line, swap out the word “you” with the word “ye”, and say it like Long John Silver.
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”
Creepy, am I right?
So? What give? I’ve come up with three theories:
First theory: Yoda and pirates come from the same stock. One day those ghost hunting guys who keeps discovering Chupacabra tracks for cable television are going to uncover the remains of a Yoda-like creature that crash-landed in the Caribbean some 500 years ago. “Help me, you must,” cried the sole survivor. This theory is not very likely.
Second theory: convoluted sentence structure is a byproduct of being strong with The Force. Yoda is certainly robust in that respect. And it’s not a long stretch to imagine pirates as being strong in the Dark Side. Still, Darth Vader didn’t talk like a pirate, and Kylo Ren uses pretty good grammar. Even Luke Skywalker, about whom Darth Vader said “The Force is strong in this one” – even he got subjects and verbs in the right order. Another not very likely theory.
Third theory: Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, needed to give Yoda a quirky-yet-charming mannerism that would make him sound both familiar and alien. Clever choice, this dialect was. This would be the most likely theory.
Now, as I know you know, not all pirates talked like Yoda. Pirates mostly spoke in the dialect of their native lands – during the Golden Age of Piracy, this would have been England. And, since the greatest percentage of pirates were not men of culture and learning, they tended to use the rougher language of the streets – stab me in me vitals if that don’t be true!
If you read Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, you’ll get a great pirate caricature in Long John Silver. But read The Black Swan, by Rafael Sabatini, and you’ll find a great mix of swashbuckling pirate and gentlemen of fortune that, while quite romantic, was probably equally accurate.
And, middle English, which was in use at the close of the Elizabethan Era, quite at the same time as the Golden Age of Piracy, was full of fun, convoluted sentence structures. This one is my current favorite: “Avoid taverns, brothels and gambling halls should I, were I you.”
Until the link between the citizens of Dagobah and Port Royal is defined, however, around Yoda my wallet should I watch. Arrgh.