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September 19, 2008

Talking like a pirate
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:54 PM * 24 comments

Twenty years ago I used to hang out in Greenwich Village. You couldn’t walk through (or alongside of) Washington Square Park without some guy walking past you mumbling “Smoke, smoke.” I never took any of them up on their offer, so I don’t know how many were honest drug dealers and how many undercover cops.

Nowadays I often find myself in Chinatown. I can’t walk down Canal Street without Asian women coming up to me mumbling “DVD, DVD.” If I were a woman, the come-on would be “Prada, Coach, Vuitton”.

And I was planning to leave it there, but check out this five-year-old NY Times story on the investigation of the Chinatown counterfeiting scene, with its mazes of underground catacombs:

While exploring a basement room in the mid-90’s, Mr. Holmes found a tall cabinet against the wall. He opened the cabinet and pushed the back, which sprang open into another room. There was a man chopping chickens with a meat cleaver.

“When we came through, he raised the meat cleaver,” Mr. Holmes said. “But once he saw who we were and that we weren’t bad guys, he put it down.”

There was a big crackdown earlier this year on the “Counterfeit Triangle” (actually an irregular trapezoid), but it hasn’t kept away the offers of counterfeit DVDs.

Comments on Talking like a pirate:
#1 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 07:13 PM:

If you were writing fiction on this topic, the name Dempster Leech would be rejected as too Dickensian, too apt. But, barring a pseudonym, there is such a person.

Great story.

#2 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Arrrr, I wonders if they hits Canal St or BitTorrent firrst.

#3 ::: Dom ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Possibly the weirdest Chinese counterfeit products are books, such as Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon, which is terrible fanfic sold as if it were a Rowling translation.

Imagine these people outside an sf convention!

#4 ::: Michael Barry ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Given the week we have just had shouldn't "I recommend you invest in derivatives or SIVs" and similar be added to the pirate lexicon?

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Curiously, no one ever walked up to me in Washington Square Park muttering 'Smoke, smoke' twenty years ago (and I walked through it frequently between 1986 and 1988 when I was a graduate student at NYU).

#6 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:15 PM:

The single time I walked through Washington Square Park 20 years ago, at least 5 people walked up to me saying "smoke, smoke". It is one of my more vivid memories of the few hours spent in the city.

#7 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:22 PM:

You know, I like to think I'm a reasonably worldly sort, but if someone said "smoke, smoke" to me, I suspect I'd look around for the fire.

Lest you think I'm completely sheltered, though, I do know what the "doses, doses" folks mean. Maybe it's a regional thing.

#8 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:23 PM:

Oh no, not the way these guys did. It was abundantly clear from absolutely everything about them exactly what they were offering.

I was a total rube and I figured it out.

#9 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Please tell me the "smoke smoke" guys were also Rastafarians. That would complete the image. Guys whose hair looks like Manny Ramirez's muttering at strangers.

#10 ::: Zak ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:51 PM:

In my case, they were pretty much most kinds of guys.

#11 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:51 PM:

Actually, I felt a little sad when the "Smoke, smoke,...," crew stopped approaching me...about the same time security guards stopped regularly searching my backpack as I exited stores.

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 09:07 PM:

Zak @8, yeah. I'd had a pretty sheltered white professional-class upbringing, but it was instantly obvious to me what was being offered.

Linkmeister @9, the guys approaching me were a pretty diverse collection. Always guys, though.

#13 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 09:57 PM:

How odd that your Canal street also runs through your Chinatown, same as Chicago's.

I'm trying to remember if there's a canal near our Canal street. A branch of the river, maybe.

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 10:01 PM:

Ah well. Another of my stereotypes shattered.

#15 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 12:38 AM:

But the question I'd like to know the answer to, is which '90s and which Mr. Holmes?

#16 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 02:14 AM:

Mary Dell writes in #13:

How odd that your Canal street also runs through your Chinatown, same as Chicago's.

When I first came to Chicago in the company of science fiction fans, over thirty years ago, we were making our way through the streets when we came across a bus stop with a sign indicating the name of the route.

CANAL-WACKER, it read.

We decided this was a reference to an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, Canal Wackers of Mars. The rest of the weekend was filled with references to the wacking of canals.

#17 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 02:51 AM:

I'm still boggling at the counterfeit chickens. I had no idea the problem was so widespread.

#18 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 09:35 AM:

Zander @ 17: That would be where KFC get their lizard nuggets from.

#19 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 10:50 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 18

Oh, you've been through that Shadow too?

#20 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 19: No, only heard about it. I'm more familiar with the Shadow where they use newt nuggets, from Klein Station.

#21 ::: Teancom ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 12:13 PM:

I went to New York for the first time ever a few months ago (techie training). My boss and I would wander around the city at night after our class got out. The night we walked to Chinatown was, well, freaking awesome. Not only did we get to eat in one of those 'hole-in-the-wall' Chinese places (the name was "SPECIAL TASTE RESTRAUNT" and they had to dig up a special english menu for us, the only gringos in the place (or on that street), but we also had a blast wandering through all the open shops.

My boss was looking for a 'coach' bag for his wife (I had never heard of them; maybe a reflection on the fact that I'm originally from Idaho and now live in Nebraska). So when a lady came up and whispered 'dvds, cds, whatever you want', he told her no thanks, but that we wanted a coach bag. She glanced around, took us to a shop a couple doors down, walked us to the back (all these shops are about 8 feet wide and 50 feet deep), past an old guy that gave us the once over, and through a door into a tiny hallway. At the other end of the hallway was what looked like a stockroom, and I assumed we were going in there. But instead, another lady came in, closed both doors, and OPENED THE WALL! Serious, straight-out-of-Scooby-Doo stuff. I think I clapped.

The secret door opened into a tiny (maybe 5x8) room lined with coach bags, prada, and other name-brands. He got three different bags for something like $60. I picked up a little leather prada-knockoff for $25. But even if I hadn't bought anything, it would still have been a fun time. Secret doors! Pirates! Arrrrr....

#22 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 01:01 PM:

In Celebration of Talk Like Dr. Stephen Maturin Day

The names of these pirates, the Doctor thought, were not dissimilar to those of pigeons; a panoply of blacks and shades of gray, colourful in adjectives rather than hues.

As to the pirates as agents of political transformation, he had made some notes upon the subject, which indicated that their primary purpose was taking things from ships and trading them for rum and intimate favours, in places ranging from Tortuga to Whitehall. Some did affect views on individual freedom, though these would have rattled the brains of a Paine or a Wollstonecraft, and the notion that they were a seething mass of nautical Robespierres would not stand the light.

It was good to have an enemy, he reflected, and it was good to have an enemy who believed odd things that were incompatible with one’s own views. He had encountered sailors from English towns that were fiercely proud of having been sacked by ships scattered from the Armada. While the only evidence of such pillage was here a stack of cannonballs and there a public house named “Ye Dead Spaniardo,” every man from those villages stood ready, centuries later, to take the battle back to Philip II, with his dreadful religion and his incomprehensible consonants.

By John M. Ford

#23 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 01:35 PM:

TCM recently showed an old costume drama where Yul Brynner (with hair!) played pirate Jean LaFitte (I think it was), romancing none other than Inger Stevens. It was too crummy and I was too sleepy to stay up for it all, but he did look quite dashing. No eyepatch or peg leg, let alone pirate lingo.

#24 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 08:10 PM:

Down memory lane. Here's my LJ posting from September 19, 2007:

9:24am: for September 19


You like Chan? Jacky Chan? You like Rush Hour? Rush Hour 3? You haven't seen yet?

How about DVD? Brand new DVD, fresh off boat. Real color label. Region 1, subtitles in Cantonese -- don't worry, you just ignore those. Good price on DVD, Rush Hour 3. Ten dollar! Five dollar?

There. You have nice day!

You like Chuck Norris?

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