Friday Fun Facts - 7/27/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. (By the way, today marks six months since I started this blog feature. I'm really gratified by how much everyone has been enjoying the FFF!)

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge them.

1) This is a hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata. What a beautiful creature! It's sad to think that they were hunted almost to extinction.
" Mrs. Fraser feeling somewhat improved?”

“Verra much,” said Jamie, with feeling.

“She enjoyed the turtle soup?”

“Greatly. I thank ye.” His hands on my head were trembling.

"Did you tell her that I’ve put aside the shell for her? It was a fine hawksbill turtle; a most elegant beast.”

“Aye. Aye, I did.” With an audible gasp, Jamie pulled away and reaching down, lifted me to my feet.

“Good night, Mr. Stern!” he called. He pulled me toward the berth; we struggled four-legged to keep from crashing into tables and chairs as the floor rose and fell beneath us.

(From VOYAGER, chapter 56, "Turtle Soup". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) The photo above (from Wikipedia) shows the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh.  I didn't get to see it on my recent visit to Scotland, unfortunately; the palace was closed because the Queen was in town.

The Great Gallery at Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh Scotland

Here's the Great Gallery at Holyrood, where Charles Stuart entertained guests in the winter of 1745-46. (Photo credit: mbell1975 on Flickr.)
The long, high-ceiled room with its two vast fireplaces and towering windows had been the scene of frequent balls and parties since Charles’s triumphant entry into Edinburgh in September. Now, crowded with the luminaries of Edinburgh’s upper class, all anxious to do honor to their Prince—once it appeared that he might actually win—the room positively glittered.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Holyrood". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Remember the poem by A.E. Housman that Claire recites to Jamie in VOYAGER?  Here it is in full:

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

I always have to laugh at Jamie's reaction to Claire's teasing in this scene:
"Did ye not tell me ye'd studied for a doctor, Sassenach?" he inquired. "Or was it a poet, after all?"

"Not me," I assured him, coming to straighten his stock. "Those sentiments are by one A.E. Housman."

"Surely one of him is sufficient," Jamie said dryly. "Given the quality of his opinions."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Masque of the Red Death". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I was surprised to discover that this poem has nothing to do with redheads at all. According to Wikipedia, Housman is referring to Oscar Wilde, who was convicted of sodomy in 1895.
In the poem the prisoner is suffering "for the colour of his hair", a natural, given attribute which, in a clearly coded reference to homosexuality, is reviled as "nameless and abominable" (recalling the legal phrase peccatum horribile, inter christianos non nominandum, "the horrible sin, not to be named amongst Christians").

4) I had never heard of a spurtle (a wooden implement used in Scotland to stir porridge) before I read Diana Gabaldon's books. Here's a scene from ECHO in which Claire has been using one to stir the contents of a kettle over the fire.
"You evidently know my name," I said, striving for coolness. "What's yours, then?"

He smiled again, looking me over with a careful air that struck me as one inch short of insolence, and a short inch, at that.

"My name doesn't matter. Your husband is James Fraser?"

I had a sudden strong urge to dot him one with the spurtle but didn't; it might annoy him but wouldn't get rid of him. I didn't want to admit to Jamie's name and didn't bother asking myself why not. I simply said, "Excuse me," and, taking the camp kettle off the fire, set it on the ground and walked off.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 67, "Greasier Than Grease". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Apparently there is an annual porridge-making contest in Scotland called the Golden Spurtle. <g>

5) This diagram shows what an abdominal aortic aneurysm looks like. Just looking at the picture is a little scary! It looks like a balloon that's about to pop, doesn't it? Here's a brief video animation:

It's easy to see why such a condition would be fatal in the 18th century.
"How do you feel?” I asked.

[Grannie Wilson] put a trembling hand to her belly.

“I do feel that wee bit poorly,” she whispered.

I put my own hand on her abdomen, and felt it instantly. A pulse, where no pulse should be. It was irregular, stumbling, and bumping--but most assuredly there.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said. I didn’t say it loudly, but Mrs. Crombie gasped, and I saw her apron twitch, as she doubtless made the horns beneath it.

I hadn’t time to bother with apology, but stood and grabbed Roger by the sleeve, pulling him aside.

“She has an aortic aneurysm,” I said to him very softly. “She must have been bleeding internally for some time, enough to make her lose consciousness and seem cold. It’s going to rupture very soon, and then she’ll die for real.” 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 39, "I Am the Resurrection". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


GeeDee said...

You have another interesting FFF. Thank you for sharing this. I know it requires a lot of time and devotion to all things Outlander-ish.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for brightening my Friday. :)


Cate said...

Thank you for doing these! I look forward to them every Friday!

Karen Henry said...


Thanks! It takes some time and effort to put these posts together, but I think it's worth it, judging from the results. :-)


Karen Henry said...


My pleasure! Glad you're enjoying the FFF!


Karen Henry said...


Thanks! I'm really glad you're enjoying them! :-)


lady beth said...

Karen: I was able to see Holyrood on my trip to Scotland and found it very moving to be where Jamie and Claire had been. I especially enjoyed seeing the chapel where Claire met BJR. I am a scrapbooker and did some wonderful pages using my pictures and the appropriate quotes to go with them. Lady Beth

Karen Henry said...

Lady Beth:

I wish I'd been able to see Holyrood myself. But I saw a lot of other places where J & C had been. :-)


Anonymous said...


In response to your comment, I am definitely enjoying FFF. I just spent an interesting couple of hours going through them back to January 2012. What an interesting idea you have!


Karen Henry said...


Glad to hear it!


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