Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger

Pretend the car is a ship and you are all pirates. Can you design a treasure map and a flag that represents your “ship”? Take turns being the capt’n and the maties. There better not be a bilge rat among you. Can you talk like pirates? Here are some phrases that may come in handy: Arrr! That be a fine cow by the road. Avast ye hearties! Me thinks me needs a rest stop. Shiver me timbers! I’ve smelt a skunk that went to Davy jones’ locker. What other expressions can you make up?

Lynn Gordon, 52 Fun Things to Do in the Car, revised ed., Chronicle Books, 2009

They rebel at last. They pitch the tyrannous conscience down an oubliette, weld shut the manhole cover of that dark dungeon. They can hear the conscience no more. In the sweet silence, the mental processes look about for a new leader, and the leader most prompt to appear whenever the conscience is stilled, Enlightened Self-interest, does appear. Enlightened Self-interest gives them a flag, which they adore on sight. It is essentially the black and white Jolly Roger, with these words written beneath the skull and crossbones, “The hell with you, Jack, I’ve got mine!”

Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, 1965

The HISPANIOLA still lay where she had anchored; but, sure enough, there was the Jolly Roger — the black flag of piracy — flying from her peak.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1883

From 1660 until 1720, the so-called golden age of piracy, pirates again operated as privateers. This period saw some sailing under the famous “Jolly Roger” flag, with attacks by English pirates on both Spanish and French ships. There were also English attacks on the Dutch; the island of Saint Eustatius, a Dutch sugar island, was attacked by pirates and British soldiers on many occasions, changing hands 10 times during the 1660s and early 1670s. French pirates also started operating freely from their ports on the island of Hispaniola (modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Sir Henry Morgan, a Welsh buccaneer, sacked the Spanish town of Portobelo in Panama, which had been well garrisoned.

Justin Corfield, “Piracy in the Atlantic World”, in Encyclopedia of World History, vol. 3, Facts On Files, p. 309

“What’s a privateer?” Steve asked, puzzled. “Some kind of buccaneer?”
“Sort of.” Rita laughed. “The line was always blurry. Basically, a government that was at war would commission pirates to fight for them against the enemy. In peace, pirates might attack any ship they wanted. The trouble is, the term turns on a legal technicality. They were basically the same people, doing the same things.”
“Pirates were the ones who ran up the skull and crossbones flag,” said Jane.
“Well, not in this time,” said Rita. “The Jolly Roger didn’t appear on the scene for another couple of decades.”
“Too bad we can’t invent it for them,” said Steve. Then he turned to Hunter quickly. “Just a joke, Hunter. Not serious, okay?”
“Okay,” said Hunter soberly. “I have data about jokes stored. Was that one funny?”
“No,” said Jane.

William F. Wu, Isaac Asimov’s Robots in Time 2: Marauder, 1993


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