When Outlander's Claire Randall passes through the stones to 18th-century Scotland, she's called a number of unsavory names ranging from witch to whore, but only one eventually becomes a term of endearment: Sassenach.
It means a foreigner. And more specifically, it's a less-than-kind Gaelic word for an English person, as actor Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser on the series, explains in the video below:
So how did it become a kind of pet name for Jamie to call Claire?
It all stems from the fact that Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the books the popular Starz television show is based on, wanted a sprinkling of Gaelic in her text.
"Very early on I began doing research as much as I could into Gaelic. While I don’t speak Gaelic by any stretch of the imagination, we want a few little terms and sentences scattered around to give a flavor of the language," Gabaldon explained to T&C ahead of the Great American Read finale.
Sassenach was one of those key terms.
"Well, I had this English woman showing up, and I did know that Sassenach is in fact a fairly derogatory term for someone who is a foreigner, but specifically for an English person given the long and acrimonious relationship between England and Scotland. So, it seemed natural that someone would refer to Claire as a Sassenach," she continued.
Jamie eventually takes up the term for her, but he doesn't mean it as an insult.
"To start with, she has a slight idea that it’s a derogatory term, but she knows he’s plainly not trying to insult her. He’s just pointing out that she’s strange," Gabaldon says.
"As time went on, he adopted it as a term of endearment for her, and because one of the things and only one of the things that attracts him to her, is that she is an English woman. He kind of likes to think of it as 'I’ve got one of their women.'"
Outlander airs Sunday nights on Starz.
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