nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

The latest Icelandic volcano

It is well known that Icelandic pronunciation can be difficult for native English speakers. This is in large part due to its non-intuitive spelling, which uses letters to represent completely different sounds from those in English.

For instance, it is not easy to guess from the spelling that the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull is ‘the Icelandic volcano’, nor that Grímsvötn is correctly pronounced as ‘another Icelandic volcano’. Given these examples, the English speaker, used to working with a spelling system that seems to work on the principle of ‘find a work that is spelled like that and pronounce it slightly differently’* might naturally assume that Bárðarbunga is pronounced ‘a further Icelandic volcano’. But no! The good people at Iceland Review tell us that it isn’t pronounced like that at all, in fact that it is pronounced fairly similarly as it is spelt – just as long as you know how to pronounce á in Icelandic, of course – and helpfully provide this example.

Will it erupt? Obviously I hope so, though in a minor tourist way that doesn’t cost too much or interfere with my flights. Volcano enthusiast as I am, I don’t feel the need to witness a repeat of the Laki eruption/Skaftár Fires

If it does erupt, what will the broadcast media do? Will they take the sensible course of getting a sound file from the embassy now and agreeing on a reasonable approximation that will be used by all employees, much as we do with Barcelona, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Kilimanjaro and pretty much everywhere abroad that doesn’t have its own name in English? I wouldn’t count on it. Why say boring Bowthabungya when you can try and say Bárðarbunga exactly like an Icelander, fail, and fall back on ‘a different Icelandic volcano’, while hoping desperately that the next one to go up is Katla.

*Applied to paperwork, this is the principle on which the entire administration of the University of Oxford seems to operate.

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Tags: media, volcanoes
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