For those of you unfamiliar with Eyjafjallajökull and the roller coaster of events it has caused both mentally and physically, we’ll start simply. When you see the word Eyjafjallajökull on the page, assuming you are not an Icelander, you will most likely skim past it, retain the memory of what the word is based on the fact that its the only long word on this post so far, and completely disregard the way it may sound aloud. Throwing this word at you is the equivalent of frustrated text speak: Eyjafjallajökull = Evjngsdrlfuydghs!!! To a non Icelandic speaker, it may sound like this:
The good news is, that is -not- how it is pronounced, so you should have no fear of your Icelandic learning resulting in speaking like a mentally unapt human being. Before we get to the pronunciation, though, what does it mean?
Well, Eyjafjallajökull took the world by storm recently, in April 2010. Air travel was disrupted for a collective total of 6 days because of this strange, unpronounceable entity. Icelanders had to evacuate their homes, and a whole lot of Europe was covered in an ash cloud. It was almost as if someone finally decided to lift Iceland up out of the ocean and dust underneath it, only to find that no one had cleaned it in hundreds of years. That would make a nice story, but what was the real cause?
Let’s break down the word “Eyjafjallajökull” and find out. Luckily it is a compound word, and if you know a few of the words it contains, it’ll start to make sense. To make things easier, if you still don’t know what it is, just look up the word “volcano” in any English dictionary and you’ll know. But looking up “volcano” in an Icelandic dictionary will not give you Eyjafjallajökull (you’ll get “eldfjall“). So here are our three strange non-“volcano” words in question: eyja, fjall and jökull.
“Eyja” is the Icelandic word for “Island,” and “fjall” is the word for “mountain.” When put together, the word morphs into “eyjafjöll,” which translates to “Island Mountains.” This combination most likely came from the fact that the archipelago named Vestmannaeyjar or “Westman Islands” could be seen from this volcano. “Jökull” at the end of the word means glacier, or ice cap. So roughly when added together, we have the words “Island mountain glacier.” Based on specific grammar in the word, it is more in the name of the “Islands’ Mountains’ glacier.” So this specific mountain is completely covered by an ice cap, and was a very famous news subject for those 6 April days in 2010. Imagine the struggle each newscaster had to go through as they tried to pronounce the volcano on live television. Lucky for us, television is rewindable and replayable, so some of the humorous mishaps were documented here:
A friend of mine studied in Iceland for a year as an American exchange student, and noted that anyone getting drunk in Iceland should watch out, because Icelanders -will- ask you to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, and you -will- most likely fail. But, for those of you who want to get a head start and not let that happen, here is a nice accurate pronunciation by an actual Icelander:
I’ve found that pronouncing this word five times a day when you get up really makes for the best warm up to your new day. Fellow Non-Icelanders: I would not recommend saying this word 5 times fast, because you will most likely sound like you’re just helplessly stuttering. This is one of those words that doesn’t induce semantic satiation because it’s -already- strange and unrecognizable.
I have told myself that one day soon I will stand on the summit of Eyjafjallajökull and accurately yell out its name. Only then will I be able to wear this fantastic tshirt-