When I had the pleasure
of visiting North Dakota while touring the old Icelandic settlements in N-America the summer of 2004 (see Newsletters 41-46)
, my friend George Freeman handed me as a gift (one of many) a booklet called "Echoes from the Icelandic Immigrants
". Very interesting one in which I always find something to read and reread. One small chapter there is a story titled Halldor "Sko" Thorgillson
(Halldór Ţorgilsson). He emigrated in 1876 from Dalasýsla County with his wife Málfríđur Tómasdóttir and tree children: Ţorgils, Kristján and Guđrún. The family settled at first in Mikley (Big Island or Heckla Island), Manitoba. It is uncertain when he left Mikley but known that he was in Mountain in 1882. He homesteaded near Mountain and remained there until his death.
Except for the story's headline, there is no mentioning in the chapter of Halldor's middlename "Sko"
. And I wonder if anyone knew the meaning of it - the middlename - when that chapter was written. It's obvious that "Sko" was Halldór's nickname.
Nicknames are well known wherever you go. In the small village where I grew up, on the north coast of Iceland, almost every man had his nickname. Nicknames related to e.g. the person's size (Jon "stutti" or Jon "shorty") or the person's age (Einar "gamli" or Einar the old one). Some had nicknames drawn from a color. The rainbow was well represented. There was Helgi "svarti"
(the black one, because of his coal black hair), Páll "grćni"
(the green one, drawn from the name of the farm he came from: Grćnavatn or the "green lake"), Valdi "hvíti"
(the white one, because of his snow white hair, actually, he was an albino), Kalli "rauđi"
(the red one, because of his political believes rather than his red hair) and Stjáni "blái"
(the blue one, because of the blue and obvious vains in his nose and cheeks). And there was Ingvar "sko"
. He was called so because of his habit of saying this word "sko" in almost every sentence he spoke. "The car "sko" broke down." "My wife "sko" went shopping." Etc. The word "sko" simply means "you see"
. I'm sure you all know someone with this "sko" or "you see" habit of talking. And Halldór "sko" Thorgillson
brought his habit of saying "sko" from Iceland to the Icelandic community in N.-Dakota and the nickname was stuck on him for good.
A small additional story on nicknames. In a small village in Iceland a man named Jon became aware of that something (don't remember what it was) had been stolen from him. So he went to the sheriff to make a charge. Well, this became a common knowledge in the village and Jon was from then on always called Jon the thief.
Here is another one: In the Westmann Islands off the southern coast of Iceland, lived a man named Guđjón. During his twenties he moved to Reykjavík on three separate occasions each time failing to settle and returning home. From then on, until his death at the age of 81, he was affectionately known by his nickname, Gudjon the Wanderer.