A pirate. The earliest pirates of the Caribbean were newly-arrived French woodsmen who preserved meat by curing it slowly over a smoky fire so it would last a long time (this was before refrigerators). In the native Carib dialect, boucan was a grill (in Haitian: barbacoa).  The French settlers named the process of smoking and curing meat boucaner and called themselves meat-curers—boucaniers.

When Spain drove out the French settlers in the 1690s they turned to piracy.  They continued to call themselves boucaniers and there may have been a grim joke in the name—the native Caribs were rumored to be cannibals.  Maybe the boucaniers hoped their enemies would associate them with their grisly former neighbors.

2 responses to “Buccaneer

  1. Cool! So it has nothing to do with being paid a “buck” for the ear of each captive? Only kidding–“buck” is a much later slang term, but the origin of “barbecue” is also in there! Aaarg, matey!

  2. Good catch, animalartist! ‘Barbecue’ was Long John Silver’s nickname in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He was the sea-cook aboard the Hispaniola. Hispaniola is also the name of the island containing the Dominican Republic and Haiti. ‘Barbacoa’ is the Haitian variant of ‘boucan’. ‘Boucan’ is the root of ‘buccaneer’. I think I need to put up an enormous corkboard and tie all these clues together…

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