Well I hate to shatter your dreams of being a pirate, riding around on big wooden ships, drinking rum, fighting and burying treasure but pretty much all conceptions about pirates are completely false. All the way down to walking the plank.
Few (if any) pirates ever used a plank to force people off of a ship. When a ship was captured the crew had the option of joining them or jumping overboard. There wasn’t any kind of weird ceremony where they blind folded crew members poked them in the butt with a sword until they reached the end of a board. That’s a waste of time, and pirates where all about business.
Pirates certainly never buried treasure and no pirate would trust his captain to bury it for him. While there may be some isolated cases of buried treasure, it is certainly not something a pirate just did all the time for the hell of it. The men who became pirates did so because they wanted money, not to bury it, and as soon money was made it was divided and then they would typically gamble with it or bring it home. They would have thought of it as insane to bury their earnings on some deserted island, or anywhere.
If you’ve seen a pirate movie you have probably seen the pirates swinging from ropes, storming a ship with reckless abandon, swords swinging, pistol packing, cannons blasting. Again, another misconception. Most ship captains owned their cargos and had everything fully insured so they would typically just surrender when pirates would show up as not to risk the lives of them and their crew. It was just a part of doing business, and they accepted it as something that just happens. If only the RIAA would have the same mentality.
Another common thing associated with pirates is the skull & crossbones, or “Jolly Roger,” flag that would fly all the time from their ships and has become synonymous with pirates. The truth is that pirates used lot’s of flags for different reasons. The Jolly Roger was used to coerce ships to allow them to board. It was their, “we mean business flag.” Some pirate ships would actually fly a flag with an hourglass on it that signified that “time was running out.” And it is believed that the term Jolly Roger comes from a mispronunciation of the Arabic word, Ali Raja, which means “King of the Sea.”
And the big ships just did not make sense for what pirates did. Having a big ship is hard to maneuver and is certainly not ideal for catching or escaping from anyone. Real pirates relied on small, swift vessels for hit-and-run attacks.
And the biggest misconception is that pirates where rough-and-tumble, dirty, drunks who loved to drink rum, rape women, hang with parrots, and fight. While there were some who were like this, most pirates were a strict order and functioned much like a small navy and operated under a small document similar to a constitution with some rules and regulations such as:
If any man shall offer to run away, or keep and secret from the company, he will be marooned with one Bottle of Powder, one bottled of water, one small arm, and shot.
That man that shall not keep his arms clean, fit for an engagement, or neglect his business, shall be cut from his share, and suffer such other punishment as the captain and the company shall think fit.
If at any time you meet with a prudent woman, that man that offers to meddle with her, without her consent, shall suffer death.
So there you go. Pirates…debunked!