bonorex asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

Pirate symbol?

Why are the skull and bones symbol of pirates called the Jolly Roger?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    This is really long. Sorry.

    There are many theories, but the real origin is unclear. One theory is that it comes from the French term "joli rouge," ("beautiful red") which the English corrupted into "Jolly Roger".

    Another theory proposes that the leader of a group of Asian pirates was called Ali Raja; English pirates appropriated and corrupted the term

    A further theory is that the name derives from the English word "roger", whence "rogue", meaning a wandering vagabond. "Old Roger" was a term for the devil.

    Still another idea to be presented goes back to the nature of flags during the age of the sail. A red flag was often flown as a sign to show that a particular signal had been denied or refused. For example a fleet would signal its flagship that it would like to stop for a meeting, if the Admiral was disagreeable his ship flew a red flag to show the request was denied. In a case of a surrendering ship a red flag meant no quarter would be given. Meaning that even though the ship was surrendering her crew would not be spared and would be killed. This is possibly the origination of the Jolly Roger. Often times in harbors pirates were hung at the entrances so their bones would be a sign to other pirates of the price of such evil deeds. Its most likely the skull and crossbones motif was taken to show that there were pirates on board, placed on the red flag to show no quarter given to all ships. This is a possible version of the "joli rouge" of France came from, because the skull was often smiling and placed on a red flag. Since the white cross began to be confused with the English Red Ensign, the flag was purportedly changed to black to show the nature of a pirate ship. While this hasn't been confirmed by historical documents, most historians believe this progression of flags.

    Source(s): Wikipedia
  • 4 years ago

    The name "Jolly Roger" is thought to have come from joli rouge (pretty red), a wry French description of the bloody banner flown by early privateers. Whatever the derivation, the flags were meant to strike mortal terror in the hearts of the pirate's intended victims. They often featured skeletons, daggers, cuttlasses, or bleeding hearts on white, red, or black fields. The skull and crossbones motif first appeared around 1700 when French pirate Emanuel Wynne hoisted his fearful ensign in the Caribbean -- embellished with an hourglass to show his prey that time was running out. The pennant above was flown by Christopher Condent. hope this helps

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