Thodjildur "Haukadeler" Jörundardóttir - Name spelling

Started by Alex Moes on Tuesday, September 29, 2015
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10/1/2015 at 7:14 PM

Ulf, you are correct that in translating it we could quite likely create a meaning to her nickname that might not have been the intention. The whole conversation about her in this Discussion was triggered by the poor translation into English of "ship-breast" which had me stuck and was why i brought up the subject.

Perhaps we should remove all the translations from display name fields except for the original Old Norse and have a summary in her about to record what translations we currently have with a note to clarify that the common scholarly interpretation of the underlying meaning could be entirely false.

Is there any significance in the variation between the Norse "knarrarbringa" compared to the Íslenska "knarrarbringu"?

Private User
10/1/2015 at 9:22 PM

No, under that time it was as one language in the western regions of scandinavia, the exact spelling of the word is of a minor importance, you can use either one of them without doing any wrong, just pick one of them and stick with it. ; )

10/1/2015 at 11:22 PM

Alex Moes Old Norse inflected names. I think the u indicates the genitive (possessive) - so it would be "knarrbringu" in the genitive and "knarrbringa" in the nominative.

When searching for the word, I found a couple of concordances on the Net; they all seem to treat "knarrbringa" as the root form.

10/10/2015 at 8:15 AM

In English editions of the saga she is called Thorbjorg Ship-breast or Thorbjorg Ship-bosom. This is the normal practice in modern translations, where nicknames throughout the sagas are translated but left uninterpreted.

We should do the same on Geni.

I've seen a translation that has a footnote to explain that her breasts were like the prow of a ship but I don't own a copy and don't remember which one it is.

10/10/2015 at 10:34 AM

But, Justin, isn't "Ship-breast" or "Ship-bosom" already an interpretation when translated from old-norse into modern english?

When an old-norse word can have multiple meanings, how can we select one meaning in modern english?

Maybe it shouldn't be translated at all because of the possbility of translating the wrong meaning of the word.

10/10/2015 at 12:15 PM

What I'd prefer is that we follow the sames standards as modern academic translators rather than inventing an idiosyncratic Geni system based on the guesses on non-experts.

10/10/2015 at 3:14 PM

Or maybe we should just skip translating nicknames to other languages.

10/10/2015 at 3:48 PM

I think that would be hard to do on a collaborative website, although I can certainly see doing it in a personal database. On a site like Geni, people want to know that Vlad Țepeș is Vlad the Impaler, or that Æthelred Unræd is Ill-counseled not Unready.

I think most people want to recognize their ancestors when they see them in the books they read. If I'm reading about Leif Eriksson, I want to see Leif the Lucky, Erik the Red, Aud the Deep Minded, Thorbjorg Ship-Breast on Geni. I don't want to have to puzzle out where they've been hidden by people who think everyone should know that already.

10/11/2015 at 12:47 PM

Then mention them in your languages About me. I think it is messy using unsourced nicknames, which translations really are, and maybe even close to falsifying history when nicknames are transleated but never used in any source.

10/11/2015 at 2:03 PM

Hardly unsourced. If every English translation of Erik the Red's Saga calls him Erik the Red, I think it's safe to assume that's the English form of his name.

10/11/2015 at 6:01 PM

Remi, to my mind the natural extension of your stance would be that all profiles appear only in their native historical form. I'm not sure how good your Russian is but try taking a look in the Cyrillic portions of the tree they are just a meaningless jungle as would be most of the tree if it was rendered only in it's native form. I do agree with your point thought that "Ship-breast" is already an interpretation but i would not describe it as modern english.

Justin, who are these "modern academic translators" and what ivy tower do they live in? Gibberish like "Ship-breast" has zero meaning to a modern english speaker leaving them to interpret it in any number of ways. I would say that translation is worse than leaving it in the original Norse.

Thorbjorg "the busty" might be a guess by a non-expert, and might actually be completely wrong, but at least it has some actual meaning in english.

10/11/2015 at 6:19 PM

Further, you both seem to be focusing purely on Norse > English, what about the Norwegian "den Barmfagre"? I presume it is also an interpretation but from what Harald said earlier it at least has some meaning to a modern Norwegian, using it as a stepping stone to English is how i came to the current settings.

Regarding literal translations, why particularly "ship" and "breast"? Why not "boat-chest"? While we are considering "breast" anatomically a ship can also "breast a wave" or two ships can come "abreast" of each other. Which of these contexts are the modern academic translators using?
How do they define a ship as opposed to a boat? Which category does a knarr fall into? Would a 10th century viking put it in the same category? Do separate words even exist in old norse for ship and boat?

10/11/2015 at 6:31 PM

Justin, give me a break. Erik the Red is a bad example. You are using a worldknown famous and historic person so you can justify your opinion of how the modern (translated to english) nickname the of the sagafigure Thorbjorg "Ship-Breast" Gilsdóttir should be. With you experience you should know how wrong this is.

I see someone has "translated" the old norse word of Knarrebringe to modern norwegian "den barmfagre", and this is equally wrong. Harald Tveit Alvestrand as curator of this profile, please use only contemporary names on this profile. "den barmfagre" is a modern norwegian interpretation of the word "knarrbringe" and should not be used as lastname, nickname or also known as, since this nickname is only used in modern translation of the originial old norse word. There are no primary or secondary sources using the modern norwegian name, so that nickname should on be mentioned in the About me. Please fix this. She was never called "den barmfagre" when she lived.

10/11/2015 at 6:34 PM

I see Alex and I are pinpointing the same problem.

10/11/2015 at 7:21 PM

You are both thinking that these are obscure people with no reality for English readers. My personal experience might have no weight, but I took classes in saga literature at three different American universities (Columbia, NYU, Fordham). I own dozens of copies of sagas in English translation. In every class, every text, every final exam, these people have translated nicknames.

Alex challenges the idea that these are academic translations, but it should take only a moment's reflection to realize that a translation from Old Norse to English is, by definition, the job of an academic who speaks Old Norse.

As an example, consider Gwyn Jones' "Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas" (Oxford University Press 1961). I cited his translation above. He's not just some schmuck, as you seem to think. He was a professor of English and Literature. The president of Iceland made him a Knight Commander of the Order of the Falcon for his contributions to Norse scholarship.

10/11/2015 at 7:51 PM

Picking up a book at random, I pulled Eyrbyggja Saga (Penguin edition), translated by Hermann Pálsson (""one of the most distinguished scholars of Icelandic studies of his generation", studied Icelandic at University of Iceland) and Paul Edwards (studied Icelandic at Cambridge), both professors at University of Edinburgh.

The cast of characters in this translation includes Alf the Short, Ari Thorfilsson the Learned, Arnbjorn the Strong, Arnkel the Priest, Aud the Deep-Minded, Bjorn the Breidavik-Champion, Bork the Stout, Egil the Strong, Eirik the Red, Eyjolf the Grey, Freystein Bofi, Harald Fine-Hair, Hrafn the Viking, Illugi the Black, Ketil Flat-Nose, Kjallak the Old, Svart the Strong, Thorarin the Black, Thorbjorn the Stout, Thord Blig, Thord Gellir, Thord the Cat, Thorgest Steinsson the Old, Thorgrim Kjallakssson the Priest, Thorgrima Witch-Face, Thorir Arnarson Wood-Leg, Thorir Gold-Hardarson, Thorlief Kimbi Thorbrandsson, Thorodd the Tribute-Trader, Thorolf Mostur-Beard, Thorolf Twist-Foot, Thorstein Cod-Biter, a diffeent Thorstein Cod-Biter, Ulfar the Champion, and Vermund the Slender Thorgrimsson.

Then there are a few dozen more with only normal patronymics.

Many of these characters appear only in this saga. Some appear in several other sagas. Some of the nicknames are obscure, so left untranslated. Some are clear, but might have slightly different translations in other editions.

But the key point is that 1000s of English-speaking students of the sagas will recognize all of these people by their translated nicknames, but there are probably only a handful of English-speaking people who would recognize them under their original Norse names.

10/11/2015 at 8:35 PM

Well i thought asking the question what does "Ship-Breast" mean was going to help the situation, clearly it has not.

The real answer seems to be that we don't actually know what "knarrebringe" means and "Ship-Breast" is just what she is called in english based on a literal translation.

10/11/2015 at 9:31 PM

I guess I don't understand the question, Alex.

According to the experts, this word is best translated as ship-breast or ship-bosom. So, we do know what it means. Maybe someone, somewhere disagrees with that translation, but I would want to see an academic citation, not just amateur speculation.

And we apparently know what it implies. As I said earlier, I've seen a footnote that explains she had a bosom like the prow of a ship. Not the bow of a boat, but the prow of a ship. And that's apparently why the translation is ship not boat. Again, maybe there is a scholar somewhere who disagrees, but I would want to see an academic citation, not just amateur speculation.

(And, excuse me for laughing, but Thorbjorg the Busty sounds like something from a Facebook post that has quotes from all the stupid things undergraduates have supposedly written. I can picture a student who didn't really pay attention in class writing Busty because he can't quite remember what the book really said.)

Norse nickames are often like this. The sagas have a very spartan writing style. Descriptions are laconic. It's not like a modern novel where the characters are explained at length. You get the picture from the nicknames and an anecdote or two that illustrates someone's character.

When you read that Erik the Red's mother-in-law was called Thorbjorg Ship-bosom, you have a hint of things to come. You are not surprised that Erik ends up with a wife who refuses to sleep with him unless he becomes a Christian, and a daughter wo leads the fight against the Skraelings. Right from the beginning of the story, with a mother built like a battle ship and a father who is just a name, you know that Thjodhild is going to be a real match for Erik and her children are going to be heroes.

The name is such an important part of the story, you can't leave it out without distorting it.

10/11/2015 at 9:36 PM

I like for the profiles to be accessible, which means they need to have names listed as they are commonly known; it makes sense to me when the display name is in the original language, with any common additions added, and then other names added in the nickname field so that they can be searched.

So in this case, putting the English translation of the nickname into the about section wiould essentially hide it from the profile search. As does using the adjective "busty'" really, since that's not the name she is usually given.

Translation is never exact, and it's often annoying. It annoys me no end, for instance, that Aethelred Unraed shows up in the profile search as Aethelred the Unready, when that is simply wrong. But that's what he known as now, and users must be able to find him. If we set the display name to read Aethelred the Uncounseled, most English readers wouldn't recognize him.

Too bad, since the original nickname is an hilarious pun, since his given name means noble counsel. Ha ha! But the pun has been lost to time..

I do think we could put the better translation into the nickname field, though. As we could do with this profile.

10/11/2015 at 11:41 PM

Anne Brannen

Regarding Aethelred why not put Aethelred the Unready in his nickname field, that way any Geni or internet search will pick up on him regardless of how you set up the main profile.

I would then just have plain Aethelred in his First Name field with last name fields blank (unless there is appropriate data, i dont know) and make Aethelred the Uncounseled his Display Name.

Include your explanation, including the in joke (thank you by the way for sharing), in the About and Geni then has the very best profile while still capturing all the web hits that might miss him if Aethelred the Unready is simply deleted.

I would do it this way rather than just putting AKA "Aethelred the Uncounseled" because for me personally the AKA section hidden away in the bottom right of the screen is usually the very last place that i look.

10/11/2015 at 11:48 PM

Similarly anyone googling "Thorbjorg Ship-Breast" should get a result for Thorbjorg "Ship-Breast" Gilsdóttir as that text is included in her AKA field.

10/11/2015 at 11:55 PM

Justin Swanstrom

Remi Trygve Pedersen

It occurs to me that perhaps the best way forward would be:
a) delete "the Busty" entirely
b) remove "den barmfagre" and "knarrarbringu" from the Norwegian and Icelandic Display Names and put them into the AKA field(s) instead.
c) insert "knarrarbringa" into all four language Display Names.

This way both translations (plus the Danish version if i can find it again) are searchable and have equal weight on the profile but all parties see the original name unclouded by any interpretations. A suitable About in each language could then explain the inferred meanings of the nickname including the context within Eric's story.

10/11/2015 at 11:57 PM

sorry, (b) would also include adding "Ship-Breast" and "knarrarbringu" to the AKA field.

10/12/2015 at 1:02 AM


To me accessibility for the customer - the "best known as" - is what the display name is for. I googled Aethelred the Unready, and I get standard sources every high school student & retired person uses: Wikipedia, Britannica, BBC, etc.

If we can't find our ancestors easily, we are not serving the customer correctly. So start from there.

10/12/2015 at 2:00 AM


i noticed you didnt mention Geni in your google hits so i repeated the experiment and didn't get it either. I expanded the search to "Geni Aethelred the Unready" and got 3 different profiles, including one that's only 2 weeks old!

So how does making our display name match everyone else's help the customers find the profile any better than putting it in the aka field which is also searchable?

10/12/2015 at 4:29 AM

Building on what Erica said, I think the central issue here is that these people already have established English names, and that's the purpose of the language tabs.

Most people have never heard of Thorbjorg Ship-Breast, but many people have.

Remi said Erik the Red is a bad example because he's famous. What he really means is that he's heard of Erik the Red but he never heard of Thorbjorg Ship-Breast until now. The point he's missing is that there are other people who have heard of Thorbjorg Ship-Breast, and they know that name, not Thorbjorg Knarrarbringa.

Thorbjorg is like Æthelred in that respect. I said above, "people want to know that Vlad Țepeș is Vlad the Impaler, or that Æthelred Unræd is Ill-counseled not Unready." You can see that I drew a blank from everyone except Anne.

The point is not that people need to be able to find someone, but that people also need to be able to recognize the famous figures they already know.

No one has any quibble with putting name variations in the AKA so a profile is searchable.

But, when you see a name like Æthelred or Thorbjorg on Geni, you should be able to recognize them if you already know them.

The answer is not to remove the nickname from the Display Name, but to put the translated nickname in each language tab. On the English tab she should be Thorbjorg Ship-Breast. On the Old Norse tab she should be Thorbjorg knarrarbringa.

On each of the other language tabs someone needs to pull out a copy of Erik the Red's saga in that language and see what the usual form of her name is in that language. That's why we have language tabs.

10/12/2015 at 4:57 AM

That is exactly what I did last week Justin. The only difference being that I took the time to start a Discussion about what a more understandable English translation might be than the established one

10/12/2015 at 5:23 AM

Nope, I haven't heard about Erik the Red or Thorbjorg Ship-Breast. The reason being I don't read the sagas in english. But I have heard about Eirik Raude and Torbjørg Knarrebringe. I haven't heard about Thorbjørg den Barmfagre or Thorbjorg the Busty either.

10/12/2015 at 5:34 AM

Yes. The only difference from what I'm saying is that you are asking whether there is a "more understandable" English translation. My point is that there is an established English translation, so the idea of it being understandable shouldn't be a factor.

Many of these established translations aren't "understandable" on their face. You have to dig deeper into the stories, and then maybe there's something or maybe there's nothing.

You can look for a better translation, but the display name on Geni needs to be their established name.

10/12/2015 at 5:36 AM

Remi, if that's what they're called in Norwegian translations and how they're known to Norwegians who read the sagas then that's how they should appear on the Norwegian tab. And in the same way, they should appear on the English tab by the names they're called in English.

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