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
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 16:43
  • 1
    I'm not entirely sure "properly" can ever be defined when Jack Sparrow is involved.
    – Alexander
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 16:56
  • There might be more to this question than it seems. I've asked the same question on English Language & Usage. Commented May 20, 2014 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
    Commented May 20, 2014 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
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


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”.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .