September 19 is Talk like a Pirate Day. But every day is Talk like a Pirate Day for me. Arrrr!
Talk like a Pirate Day (warning: site contains pirate-themed off-color pickup lines) is a bit of Internet fun, a good excuse to say thinks like ahoy, me mateys or avast, ye scurvy rats. In my case, it’s a bit more complicated, though.
A few weeks before Christmas, I got a nasty cold. My throat was swollen and I couldn’t swallow solid food. After a few days of eating nothing but oatmeal and thin mashed potatoes, I decided I needed to see a doctor. There’s not a lot you can do for a viral infection, but he handed me a vial of something extracted from hot peppers–excuse me, a rare physick from the Spice Islands, whose secret seven dead men wonâ€™t never tell, arrrr–and told me to spray it up my nose twice a day. But the next evening I had a head-splitting earache, and when I woke in the morning I couldn’t move the right side of my face. Port I was a-steppin’ lively, but starboard was dragginâ€™ like a sailor three days into a week of Jamaican rum.
A quick Google search revealed that I had all the classic symptoms of Bell’s Palsy, and the doctor confirmed the diagnosis. The viral infection had caused swelling in my middle ear that had damaged the facial nerve. I took cortisone for 10 days to suppress the swelling and B vitamins for three weeks after that to promote nerve growth, but there’s really not much to do but wait. In most cases, Bell’s Palsy heals on its own after several weeks or months; nerves re-grow slowly. Adrift on a desert isle, with nary a barrel of grog to pass the days, me mateys!
Since I can’t close the right side of my mouth firmly, my table manners have become decidedly piratish. I spent a few more weeks eating oatmeal and mashed potatoes, wiping the remains off my chin as often as I could, but now I can eat most things, at home if not in public. For six weeks or more I had to take eye drops, but now tears have returned to my right eye–in a volume and with an imperfect sense of timing that suggests a pirate’s emotional sensitivity. It breaks my heart to make ye walk the plank at the point of me second-best Spanish cutlass, but I be needing your share of the gold to support the widows and orphans of my last ten mates.
I am still talking like a pirate these days. Labial phonemes, sounds that involve the lips in any way, don’t sound exactly right, and the German /pf/ affricate is a disaster, dribbling out at the edges like a leaky balloon instead of exploding with a pop. Speaking oddly isn’t always a bad thing. When I was in the library reading room (where talking is strictly verboten) and needed to tell a group of three students seated behind me to take their noisy group project to a more appropriate place, I found that it made quite an impression on them that only half my face moved when I spoke. Mostly, though, not being able to speak like I want to has been irritating. Other people speak more slowly and distinctly around me, as they do when addressing foreigners and others too dull to learn the language properly. After two decades of work on improving my German, this does not make me happy. The next of ye scurvy rats to try your pseudo-caretaker speech around me ends up as bait for the scuttlefish, arrr!
At my last appointment, the old sawbones swabbed a bit o’ ether on me ear to try a bit of doctoring from Old Cathay. For the record, getting acupuncture needles jabbed into my ear hurt like h*ck, and doesn’t seem to have improved anything, but I feel a bit more the buccaneer with three small wires in my right ear.
In me piteous state, I begged the parson not to withhold his ministrations from such a scurvy wretch as I–I mean, I asked one of the local missionaries to give me a priesthood blessing, and he told me in his own way exactly what the doctor said: I will need patience with the slow progress of recovery.
Please, hold any well-wishes for people who need it, ’cause no self-respectin’ pirate needs the sympathy of landlubbers, arrrr. You are welcome, however, to Talk like a Pirate.