Captain Kidd’s Alliterations

Tales of Captain William Kidd often tell of his cruel deeds committed on the high seas during the late 17th century. Few tales, however, acknowledge his uncanny knack for speaking and writing in alliterations and rhymes.


Captain Kidd – as he demanded to be called because of the alliteration – noticed signs of laziness among his ship’s crewmen in 1696, so he designed a series of linguistic exercises which we now know as tongue twisters. When recited these exercises sharpened the minds of Kidd’s men, helping them perform better while also lifting their spirits. One that was found in Captain Kidd’s diary went as follows:

The seething seas ceaseth
and twiceth the seething seas sufficeth us.

One of the most famous tongue twisters Captain Kidd wrote came after he relieved a ship of its precious cargo near Madagascar. He and a few of his men then took the treasure to a remote island where they buried the goods. Kidd would typically kill all of the men who buried the treasures, but this time a man got away from the murderous, yet poetic, captain. This event inspired Kidd to write the famous tongue twister that goes like this:

Round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.

A study in the life of Captain Kidd is entertaining, but ultimately it is a tragic study. He was hanged on May 23, 1701, at ‘Execution Dock’ in London for murder and five counts of piracy. His personal belongings were given to First Mate Peter Piper.


For more about Captain Kidd, visit our friends at the National Geographic Channel. Kidd had abandoned the Quedagh Merchant ship loaded with valuables, and its location was left a mystery. Shipwreck! will be airing on Tuesday, November 18 at 9PM. (Photo courtesy of Indiana University)


7 Responses to “Captain Kidd’s Alliterations”

  1. 1 Luke R November 9, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I didn’t think you could do it but you guys outdid the Helen Keller story in my estimation. The mention of Peter Piper sealed the deal for me. Thanks for the heads up on the Nation Geographic Show. I’ll probably check it out. Will you be suggesting shows for the history channel too?

  2. 2 Wally Lamark November 9, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Cruel killers captured Captain Kidd and he was curtains certainly.

  3. 3 The History Bluff November 10, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Luke, you’re welcome for the heads up on the show, and we do not have immediate plans to recommend shows that appear on The History Channel. In reference to the Peter Piper comment, we plan to do a story on him in the future.

    Wally, congratulations. Great tongue twister. Captain would be proud. After looking it over and reciting it, we believe that the second clause could be dropped. Leave it at “Cruel killers captured Captain Kidd” and then try to say it 10 times fast. We tried and it was a linguistic train wreck.

  4. 4 W. Rick November 10, 2008 at 10:56 am

    This is my first time on the site. Whoever is responsible for this is a genius.

  5. 5 heather March 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    hi i am doing a rpot on him

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