Ahoy, mateys! Ship’s surgeon Dr. Snee here, reportin’ fer duty! Yarrrrr!
To celebrate Talk like a Pirate Day, I’ll be answering yer medical queries concerning all things piratical in nature. And, if ye be needin’ a second opinion, then I’ve trained me helper pigeon, Nurse Polly, to repeat everything I just said, plus several pirate insults because yer a mutinous cockswain!
Weigh anchor and hit the jump, me hearties! I promise not to let the crew cast ye into Davy Jones Locker until the cook gets yer best parts in the stew.
What’s scurvy, and why is it an insult?
— Elwood Missenmast
Scurvy ‘tis a vitamin C deficiency that makes ye spotty and – more importantly – lethargic and useless to the crew. Left untreated, it will be resultin’ in tooth loss, bleeding and ulcerrrations, jaundice, mental degradation and, eventually, death.
Aside from the lethargy, havin’ scurvy ‘tis insultin’ to not only ye own poor health and eatin’ decisions, but to yer captain, who can’t provide access to basic necessities like oranges or limes. Aye, that be the cure: fruit and vegetables. And no good rat can be toleratin’ no slights to the captain o’ his ship.
It also bears close relation to other medically-based insults in that ye resemble a spotty, toothless idiot that no amount of worthy seamanship could ever cure.
Why do pirates wear eyepatches?
— Poopdeck McShanty
To hold their cheeks up! Harrr!
I kid, I kid. There actually be several reasons why a buccaneer might be sportin’ eyepatches.
- Covering an injury
- The high price of monocles in the 18th Century
- Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars
While nobody can deny the allure of the Thin White Duke, ’tis more likely to be number one, that pirates wore eyepatches to keep the salty sea air out of freshly gouged eye sockets. In fact, as nautical professions go, piracy be one o’ the top ranked for eye-related OSHA hazards. We always be climbing up poorly-rigged rope ladders, running with cutlasses or scratchin’ our faces with hooks. And the splinters, aye the splinters. Every cannonade means wood flying right at eye-level.
But, there’s another OSHA-adjacent theory that be pirates need to be able to see in the dark, specifically when we descend from topside into the bunghole. Wearing an eyepatch allows the covered eye’s rods to be fully charrrged for night vision, while the uncovered eye uses cones for daylight. By switching the patch to the other eye, yer average corsair can see 50% better immediately in dark spaces.
Can’t remember where, but I read somewhere that pirates have earrings because it improves their eyesight. Is that true?
– Captain Kidder
We pirates have a saying every time the acupuncture argument comes up: ugh, New Age. Look, I’ll grant ye that pirates are a surely superstitious lot, prone to fits of supernatural hypochondria, but seriously? Eastern medicine?
Allow me to set the record straight. Pirates don’t wear earrings because we think it improves our eyesight. We do it because we like to dress half like men and half like women. There be only one tailor aboard, so the woman side’s always on the left. And that be why we’re always piercing our left earlobes. (‘Tis also why we wear so much guyliner.)
Well, I don’t know about ye, but I feel like we’ve all learned a little something this Talk like a Pirate Day. Until next time: drink up, me hearties, yo ho!
Rick Snee ’tis not, in any way, a licensed medical professional or an actor that plays one on television. His only qualifications be high school and college biology (101 and 102), reading Men’s Health (2001-2003), and a systematic exposure to almost all health hazards (1981-present), but no medical training whatsoever. He’s just really opinionated, which ’tis good enough for bloggin.’ To submit yer own questions to Dr. Snee, Guynecologist, post comments below or email the good doctor.