to go on the account

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A term used by buccaneers to describe their somewhat irregular way of life at sea and to give it an apparently more respectable backing than in fact it had. The dividing line between buccaneering and piracy was very shadowy indeed; ‘to go on the account’ perhaps sounded a little better to some ears than ‘to turn pirate’. But it may well be that the origin of the term lay in the meaning of account as responsibility for conduct, that if caught and charged with illegal practices they would be able to account for their actions as being within the law.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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