SKOAL Journal — aka Viking Bear

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On October 10 I began my most recent journal, but I felt ill-at-ease because I had not located an image to complement its red cover. Normally, I outfit each composition book with artwork ahead of time (i.e. before my current one is filled). Earlier this month — while sorting through my supply of untouched notebooks — I felt drawn to this one because of its association with fall’s palate of golds, oranges, and reds. So I grabbed it.

My first entry recognizes the uncertainty of starting without being fully “prepared.”


For two weeks I continued with a blank red cover. Every time I grabbed my journal I felt the discouraging reminder that I have to find something soon. Then four days ago, I did!

While sifting through my greeting card box — yes, I actually own one — I picked up the viking bear card seen above. The illustration contains small amounts of red, which match my composition book nicely. After a 20-minute session with an X-ACTO knife, a metal ruler, and some clear packing tape, I smiled with pride and satisfaction. My journal was now really ready for writing. 

Where did the viking bear come from? Trader Joe’s — one of my favorite sources for greeting cards. And this means that the cover image only set me back $0.99. A dollar is a heck of a deal when its artwork provides this level of detail:


On the back of my journal I placed the card’s inside greeting: SKOÄL.

I love the stylized serif typeface* and the small pair of crossed axes. Super cool.


What does this strange term mean? SKOÄL is the 400+ year-old Scandinavian interjection used during a toast. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it comes from the Danish word skål, which means cup. Also super cool.

My only prior exposure to the word SKOÄL is the brand of dipping tobacco that is still advertised in some magazines. Curiously, SKOAL’s smokeless tobacco has been around since 1934. The brand is owned by the behemoth known as the Altria Group, Inc, which used to be named Philip Morris (think Marlboro cigarettes). Altria was formerly the parent company of Nabisco and Kraft. That’s right — two of America’s largest processed food providers were once owned by the company that participated in one of the nation’s greatest health crises (and misinformation campaigns): lung cancer deaths caused by smoking.

From now on, I am going to envision viking bears whenever I encounter the word SKOÄL. And I might even try using the Scandinavian interjection instead of cheers before clinking glasses with those whom I am dining. Bravery, honour, adventure!

* — If you are curious about the difference between the words typeface and font, please see this informative article from Fast Company.

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