Call Me Maybe
Guys, can we talk for a minute about how Sansa and Sandor address each other?
I find this aspect of their relationship fascinating — the fact that they seem to REFUSE to address each other by their actual names!
In one corner, you have Sandor, who, despite being Sansa’s social inferior, deliberately neglects to ever bestow on her the titles and courtesies that she is entitled to even as a “hostage”. He does address her as “Lady Sansa” once at Joff’s Name Day Tourney, but I think that was more for the benefit of the present company (it also read rather sarcastic). In their one-on-one interactions, however, it’s “girl” or “little bird” or “sweetcheeks” (okay, I made that last one up). It’s all very informal.
Then you have Sansa on the flip side, who has a helluva difficult time trying to find some way to address Sandor that ISN’T in a formal manner — “ser” and “my lord” are the best she can come up with, although he is officially neither a knight nor a lord. She calls him “Ser Sandor” once when he’s escorting her from the Hand’s Tourney, but he put the kibash on that pretty quick. Funny thing is, she never asks him what hell he DOES want to be called! And he certainly never offers any alternatives. I wonder what he would say if she did ask… I imagine he would have bitterly suggested she call him “dog” like everyone else does, but she would not have been down with that, as we know she finds the term demeaning. So, to his face, she pretty much doesn’t call him anything if she can help it, and in the text itself, he is always either The Hound or Sandor Clegane (and occasionally just Clegane).
So, what can we infer from this? Well, from Sandor’s POV, I think he shuns the courtesies partly because courtesies are for sissies but also because it IS too formal, and as we know, he is desperate for intimacy and connection with her though he has no clue how to go about getting it. To address her as Sansa, however, would be TOO personal. So what’s the solution? A happy medium of coming up with a nickname for her that is only between them. By calling her “little bird”, he can attain that intimacy with her that he wants without encroaching too much on her personally by using her actual name.
And I think Sansa mirrors this in her refusal to simply address him as Sandor. By doing so, it implies some sort of familiarity and/or kinship, neither of which she is ready to acknowledge just yet. She’s not gonna call him “Clegane” either because that smacks of condescension and superiority. For the same reasons, she wouldn’t call him “Hound” to his face nor “dog”, which is out of the question. So “ser” and “my lord” are basically all she has to fall back on at this point. And even in her own intimate thoughts she cannot bring herself to be so familiar.
Just to sate my own curiosity/boredom, I made a li’l breakdown of how they refer to each other in their scenes together in AGoT and ACoK (in fairness, these only apply to scenes where they are physically in each other’s presence):
"Ser Sandor" — 1 time (spoken)
"My lord" — 4 times (all spoken)
"Sandor Clegane" — 21 times (all text)
"Clegane" — 9 times (all text)
"The Hound" — 45 times (43 text, 2 spoken)
"Lady Sansa" - 1 time
"Child" - 1 time
"Girl" - 9 times
"Little Bird" - 17 times
Suffice it to say, if one of them ever eventually pulls the trigger in addressing the other simply by their first name, it will be a MAJOR moment!
NOTE: I couldn’t find a fitting screenshot for this post, so instead, here’s a long shot of the beating scene, after Sansa has been stripped, and Sandor with his face turned away like A GODDAMN GENTLEMAN.