Can You Say ‘Eyjafjallajokull’?

No, I can’t pronounce the name of the Icelandic volcano that’s been making so much trouble lately, and neither can most non-Icelandic speakers.  According to NPR, it’s pronounced something like this:  AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul.  Uh….yeah.  Listen to Icelander Rognvaldur Olafsson and an NPR reporter pronounce it. (A word about Icelandic names:  the BBC Language site states that, “since 1925, Icelanders have been obliged by law to give their children patronyms:  surnames created by the addition of-son (son) or -dottir (daughter) to either the mother or the father’s name.   Therefore all most all Icelanders have a surname such as Benediiktsson (son of Benedict), Olafsdottir (daughter of Olaf), Gudmundsdottir (daughter of Gudmundar).  You can also listen to other Icelandic words and phrases on this site.

I wanted to know more about Iceland, so I did a little research using the Web and library resources.  Using the CIA Factbook in Credo Reference database, I found these tidbits.

Iceland is about the size of Kentucky–though only about 20% of the land is habitable–with a population of about 306,000.  It had been a wealthy country, with an unemployment rate of only 1% in 2007.  However, in 2008, Iceland’s three major banks failed, and in 2009 their unemployment rate rose to 9.4%.

History: “Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world’s oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island’s population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.” (CIA Factbook)

You can explore maps of Iceland, including outline, political, temperature, population, and precipitation maps in our A to Z Maps Database. MW

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