Jack Sparrow: what has become of my beloved Pearl?

Barbosa: I lost the Pearl as I lost my leg.

Jack Sparrow: - Lost the Pearl?

Barbosa: - Aye.

Barbosa: I defended her mightily enough, but she be sunk nonetheless.

Jack Sparrow: If that ship be sunk properly, you should be sunk with it.

-- Pirates.Of.The.Caribbean.On.Stranger.Tides.

I don't understand why be is used here twice. Is it archaic? Why use this form? And what does properly mean here?

  • 3
    It's pirate talk: talklikeapirate.com/translator.html - translates "ship is sunk" to "ship be sunk" – Fluffy May 20 '14 at 16:43
  • 1
    I'm not entirely sure "properly" can ever be defined when Jack Sparrow is involved. – Alexander May 20 '14 at 16:56
  • There might be more to this question than it seems. I've asked the same question on English Language & Usage. – 200_success May 20 '14 at 19:14
  • Barbosa always speaks with a very stereotypical "pirate" dialect, but Jack Sparrow is more atypical. Therefore I also think it's also possible that Jack Sparrow's reply "If that ship be sunk properly" was repeating how Barbosa spoke word for word for comedic effect / mockery, especially since he followed it up with an insult, "you should be sunk with it." – Kai May 20 '14 at 21:02
  • @200_success it is indeed the subjunctive mood. I am also more than a little disappointed at the assertion in the comments that "nobody" talks that way any more, if they are simply talking about using the subjunctive mood. Were that the case, I would have become a nobody. – ClickRick May 20 '14 at 23:09

First, the "be" is "pirate speak" and is not standard in modern English.

Second, properly refers to the custom that the captain should go down with his ship. Sparrow is insinuating that Barbossa committed a breach of etiquette if he let the Pearl sink but didn't go down with it.


As Fluffy tells you, those two bes are mock-dialect forms employed by non-scholarly scriptwriters to symbolize “pirate speech”.

A more legitimate instance of dialectal finite be is discussed in this answer about “here there be dragons”.

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