Ciamar a Bhios Iad 'gad Shloinneadh | How Do they Style You?

In Gaelic culture, when talking about a certain person in a community, their sloinneadh is used rather than their first and last name.  People in traditionally Gaelic communities will still ask you in English, "How do they style you?" (what sloinneadh or nickname does your family have?) to try and figure out who you are in the community.  A sloinneadh can be a list of people you are descended from, ie. your father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  It usually follows your father's side of the family but may follow the mother's side as well.  So...Michael Roddy Ranald would be Michael, the son of Roddy, the son of Ranald.  Let's say this Michael's full name was Michael MacNeil.  Well in some communities, he can be one of ten Michael MacNeils.  The sloinneadh is a way of telling people apart as well as recalling your family history and being able to figure out how people in communities are related. 

Sloinneadhs can also mention what people looked like, or what their job was.  For example:


Màiri Mhór Dhòmhnuill Shaoir would be "Big Mary the daughter of Donald the Carpenter".

Eachann mac Alasdair Sheumais Ruaidh would be  "Hector the son of Alexander son of Red-haired James".


Some Gaels had rather short sloinneadhs such as the well-known storyteller Joe Neil MacNeil.  Joe was adopted and was referred to in Gaelic as Eòs Nìll Bhig or "Joe son Little Neil", who was his adoptive father. 

Many people were proud of their sloinneadhs and in some cases, particularly when talking about your ancestry, could list off many generations of their family.  The well-known bard of Upper South River in Antigonish County, Allan "the Ridge" MacDonald lists his sloinneadh as "Ailean mac Alasdair 'ic Alasdair Ruaidh  'ic Aonghuis 'ic Alasdair Bhàin (Allan son of Alexander son of Red-haired Alexander son of Angus son of Fair-haired Alexander).

Sometimes, rather than using a sloinneadh, people are given nicknames that say something unique or quirky about the person.  For example, Eamag "Cookie", Emily MacDonald of Centreville, Inverness County, along with other members of her family are known as the "Cookies" because her grandfather was so fond of cookies.  He was the original "Cookie".  Duncan "Doctor" MacNeil belonged to the "Doctor" MacNeils of Ottawa Brook, Victoria County.  His ancestor first settled in Doctor's Brook, Antigonish County, before moving to Cape Breton.

There are probably some people in your class with the same name.  How would you make your own sloinneadh?  You can also look at the list of nicknames and decide who in the class should have which nickname based on their appearance, or character.