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Author Topic: Iceland volcano cams, and how to pronounce it  (Read 1859 times)
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« on: 19-Apr-10, 09:10:40 PM »

Three web cams are focused on Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic Volcano:
from Hvolsvelli
from Valahnúk
from Þórólfsfelli
The first two are currently showing some of the lava eruptions.

Now, for the pronunciation, an somewhat humorous article from the New York Times, 2010.04.16. The original includes audio help.

Iceland Volcano Spews Consonants and Vowels

New Yorkers with suddenly dashed European travel plans were not the only ones in town inconvenienced by the eruption of a volcano 2,800 miles away.

All across this fair city, thousands of people, some of them highly paid television and radio newscasters, found themselves tumbling down the vowel-and-liquid-consonant-lubricated slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, the mountain’s 16-letter, six-and-a-half-syllable, 47-Scrabble-point name.

We know this because we went into the Times Square subway station and asked them to say it.

“I, a fiat like, la Joe, cuckle” Shmuel Rosenthal said, slowly, as if reading an entire sentence.

“EE-ya-FEE-ya-la-jo-COOL,” a man named Gael Laincy offered.

Wrong, and wrong.

Judy Boykin, a tourist from Martinsburg, W.Va., in a pink floral print coat with an American flag pinned to her lapel, got it partly right.

“There’s something that’s not pronounced,” she said, adding, “Al Roker couldn’t do it this morning.”

But then she wound up and unleashed, seemingly to her own surprise, “Jaffalakackle!”


Here’s the lowdown from a native speaker at the Icelandic consulate, who would give only her first name, spelling unknown but pronounced Becca. Take a deep breath.


The “EY” rhymes with the word “bay.” The “k” is softer than an English “k,” almost like a hard “g.” And the “t” at the end kind of sticks for a second and pulls away with a hint of a glottal “l.”


Say it soft and it’s almost like, “Hey, ya fergot La Yogurt.”

“The first problem for Americans is, you see this long word and don’t know where to begin, “ said Joan Maling, a professor emerita of linguistics at Brandeis University. “You don’t know how to divide it up.”

It’s simple. “Eyja” is the Icelandic word for island. “Fjalla” means mountain. “Jokull” is glacier.

Of the 12 people we approached in the subway, only Patrick Gullmarsuik got it nearly right. He is from Sweden.

Most non-Icelandic speakers, of course, just call the thing the volcano, and, when reading news accounts, let their mind’s narrator glide silently over those 16 letters. (This may be for the best, international-respect-wise, since as our colleagues at The Lede noted Friday, Icelanders find our manglings of the name endlessly amusing.) Officials at the Icelandic consulate said that most callers worried about their travel plans did not attempt to bruise their tongues on the offending word.

These more practical souls were represented in our survey by a woman named Sophia Williamson, who was shown a flashcard with both the spelling and the pronunciation guide.

“Sorry, I don’t have time for this,” she said and headed for the nearest office building.
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