Five-Phrase Friday (10): Outlander Grammar

Welcome back to those of you who’ve been chomping at the bit all week to learn the answers to last week’s FPF Quiz! And welcome all to this weekly festival of phrase frolic I call Five-Phrase Friday.

Caution: This post is for mature (or extremely immature adult) readers only.

Last week, we galavanted through grammar, bawdy Shakespearean insults, and similar phrases from the Starz TV show Outlander. This week, you’ll see if your close attention during past weeks has paid off as you confirm your grammar knowledge with the answers to the two grammar questions I posed last Friday. And, maybe you Outlander fans will be able to gauge just how obsessed you are with the show by testing your thoughts as to which characters spoke which words in which scenes of the episodes referenced last time.

FPF 9‘s first grammar question was:

Grammar Alert! Hey, look at that. What’s the term for the omnipresent type of word highlighted in previous Five-Phrase Friday (FPF) posts? FPF 4 and FPF 6 use or mention it, and FPF 8 uses it in one of the featured phrases. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to use a lot of these in my writing, especially my poetry. Final hint: This grammatical element shows up every week in another way as well.

Answer: compound modifier, or compound adjective. Often hyphenated, it’s a two-word adjective placed before the noun it affects. For example, “Five-Phrase” in “Five-Phrase Friday.” How’d you do?

Grammar question #2 from FPF 9 was:

Grammar Note: You may notice in some of these [Shakespearean insults] a type of word similar to the one hinted at above in the “Grammar Alert!” These words from column or group 3 fall distinctly into the noun part-of-speech category. What is the name for this type of noun?

Answer: A compound noun, of course! Two words in one. For instance, “rats” + “bane” = “ratsbane.” Did you get that one?

Of course, both the compound noun and the compound adjective/modifier belong to the larger class of compound words. If you recall from your own grammar lessons, there are also such things as compound sentences–two independent clauses, or complete thoughts, in one, where each could stand alone.

Now for the main event!
Five Phrases from the Frasers
(and Mackenzies)

Featured this week are the answers to the question about the Outlander phrase that samples one word each, in order, from episode 112 “Lallybroch”/episode 114 “The Search,” episode 105 “Rent,” and episode 107 “The Wedding” of the show’s first season.

Do you Outlander fans know which character(s) spoke each word in the invented insult “You muckle whey-faced coof“?


Duncan LaCroix as Murtagh considers whether Jamie’s mom would like his bride. Image: Starz & Sony Pictures Television


The adjective “muckle,” meaning big, tall, or great, shows up in several episodes; we’ll focus on the main three. Not mentioned last week is its presence in ep107 in the stables. Murtagh Fraser worries aloud to his godson Jamie about his “red hair and muckle size, wearing Fraser colours” for the wedding–given that the lad has a price on his head.

Sam Heughan as Jamie: bashful with Jenny–and freezing–after the redcoats leave. Image by Starz & Sony Pictures Television

Jenny Fraser similarly criticizes her brother Jamie for diving into the mill-pond to try to fix the mill-wheel in ep112 “Lallybroch”: What the hell were ye doin’, you muckle great sumph (i.e., oaf)?! Have ye not grown up a bit?” And sure enough, it’s because he wandered off just when the redcoats were approaching the property of the laird who still has that price on his head.

Jenny at Lallybroch graveyard when she and Jamie make peace.

Laura Donnelly as Jenny makes peace with Jamie at the family graveyard. Image: Starz & Sony Pictures Television

But, I mean, look at that bod. There’s a wanted man if ever I saw one.

candid shot of Caitriona Balfe as Claire in ep114

Caitriona Balfe as Claire “posing as an itinerant performer.”  Image: Starz & Sony Pictures Television

Another prominent example using the word “muckle” in the sense of great comes when Claire Fraser dresses as a sassenach (i.e., outlander or Englishwoman, which she is) in drag and sings all around northern Scotland to summon her lost husband Jamie in ep114 “The Search.” Set to the tune of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Claire’s idea, which Murtagh brilliantly develops), the refrain substitutes “And there’s nane (none) as muckle as Strathbogie-wogie!” for “He’s the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B.”

For more about the original bawdy song “The Reels O Bogie” and the version of it she sings in the episode, see my detailed posts on the subject here and here.

Okay, so those are the muckles. Next, the compound modifier “whey-faced,” which means pale-faced like the color of whey, shows up in ep105 “Rent.” It’s when Torcal, the tenant who can’t pay the rent he owes the Laird of Clan Mackenzie (Colum Mackenzie), reacts in the tavern to Dougal Mackenzie’s display of Jamie’s scarred back from flogging by the British.


Jamie Fraser’s humiliation as Dougal uses him for the rebel cause. Image: Starz & Sony Pictures Television

Clearly, Dougal’s speech in Gaelic for the Jacobite rebellion and the visual aid (visuals are helpful, don’t you think?) has the intended effect on this man. Torcal mutters across the table to a neighbor that he’d rather die than “let that whey-faced sassenach use me so.” Oddly enough, Black Jack Randall is a bit swarthier than the stereotypical sassenach–maybe the “whey” of his complexion has black pepper or soot in it to match the color of his soul.

Last we have the slang noun “coof,” a Scots English word for a dolt, or stupid fellow. This one occurs in the wedding night scene of ep107 where Rupert Mackenzie and Angus Mhor burst into the honeymoon chamber to check on the newlyweds’, er, progress in consummating the marriage.

Claire's reaction when Rupert and Angus barge in on her and Jamie

Claire reacts to Rupert and Angus barging in. Image via People mag from Starz & Sony Pictures Television

The two Scotsmen insult each other in turn:

“I told ye to stand back, ye coof,” Rupert digs into Angus. Then, after a brief discussion in which Rupert explains their presence, Jamie throws them out.

On the way, Angus fires back at Rupert, “Now who’s the coof? They’ve still got their clothes on!” and then proceeds to confess that he just wanted to see Claire’s breasts.

Did you guess all five of those correctly?

Last week, I also said I would share more favorite Outlander lines for the phrase feature of the week, but we’ve got our five quotes for this week, so I’ll save more for another post. It requires some extra thought and careful selection, after all. As Jamie says in ep115 “Wentworth Prison,” “How will I ever choose?”

Perhaps I’ll pull from the book next time. But how about a hand for those show writers in their use of authentic Scots, Gaelic, and 18th-century English vernacular! Tapadh Leibh, I say!

What are some of your favorite lines from this show or others?

Ta-ta for now, wordsmiths, superfans, and readaholics (we’ll explore what kind of word that is next time)!

If you liked learning about Scots terms and their creative usage (or you have an interest in partial nudity, body parts, lewdness, or trippy poems about mammals and stones), you might also like:



9 thoughts on “Five-Phrase Friday (10): Outlander Grammar

  1. Pingback: Five-Phrase (Freaky!) Friday (11) | Philosofishal

  2. Pingback: Five-Phrase Fridays 2015 | Philosofishal

  3. Pingback: Outlander and Culloden: Finding Truth in Representation | Philosofishal

  4. Pingback: Five-Phrase Friday (40): Subversive Farewell | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

  5. Pingback: Five-Phrase Friday (1): The Poetry Politic | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

  6. Pingback: Scotland’s Burns and Outlander rival Shakespeare’s bawdy | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

  7. Pingback: Five-Phrase Friday (18): Perfect Reads? | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

  8. Pingback: World Outlander Day 2018 | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

  9. Pingback: Adapted Bawdy Lyrics: Outlander TV Series, Episode 114, “The Search” | Philosofishal by Carrie Tangenberg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s