A Pirut Story. This short humor piece by Robert E. Howard showcases his playful use of dialect and dialogue to create a humorous situation. The piece follows a brief interaction between Captain Alfonzo Goofus, a pirate, and the captain of another ship, employing exaggerated and archaic pirate lingo to enhance the comedic effect.



  • Captain Alfonzo Goofus: Presented as a stereotypical pirate captain, his speech is marked by old-fashioned pirate terms and a comical assertiveness. His name itself, “Goofus,” suggests clumsiness or foolishness, adding to the humor.
  • Opposing Captain: Portrayed as a practical and somewhat defiant figure, he immediately shuts down Alfonzo’s demands by asserting his and his crew’s American citizenship, which comically thwarts the pirate’s intentions.


  • The dialogue is crafted to mimic the theatrical and somewhat over-the-top exchanges typical in pirate stories, but with a twist that turns the situation into a joke. The use of dialect and misspellings (“What ho! me harties,” “Nuthin doin”) adds a layer of humor by emphasizing the characters’ rugged and outdated mannerisms.


  • The humor arises from the abrupt and anti-climactic conclusion of the interaction. Alfonzo’s pirate aggression is comically neutralized by the opposing captain’s simple declaration of American citizenship, leaving the pirate “baffled.” This plays on the historical context where pirates might hesitate to attack ships of certain powerful nations.
  • The piece also self-referentially nods to traditional humorists like Josh Billings, suggesting that such simple, folksy humor was enough to achieve fame, thus playfully critiquing or underlining the simplicity of older comedic styles.


  • A key theme is the clash of expectations versus reality. Alfonzo expects to intimidate and control the situation, but reality subverts this with a simple and humorous twist.
  • There is also a subtle commentary on national identity and its protective value, humorously depicted through the opposing captain’s declaration.

Overall, Howard’s piece is a light-hearted take on pirate lore, using classic elements of humor such as surprise, dialect, and character stereotypes. The reference to humorists like Josh Billings places Howard’s work within a tradition of American humorous writing, suggesting a playful awareness of his own style and its place in the broader context of literary humor.

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