Eyjafjallajökull returns

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A couple of years ago, Eyjafjallajökull erupted, and news announcers all over the world began tripping over their tongues. Now  JJ DOOM uses the name in the first verse of the track GUV'NOR from their new album KEYS TO THE CUFFS:

Catch a throatful from the fire vocal
Ash and molten glass like Eyjafjallajökull
Volcano out of Iceland
Go conquer and destroy the rap world like the white men

You can listen to the rest, and watch the video, here.

Icelanders may suggest a bit more practice, but MF DOOM does better than lots of news announcers did, back in April of 2010. And for extra flavor, the track mixes in the sound of someone fumbling for the pronunciation in the background.

This is not the first English song to reference the volcano by name, however…

[Tip of the hat to Cecil VanDevender]


  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

    What I'm curious about is whether the recording artist(s) are disseminating an "official" lyric sheet or the internet equivalent, or whether devoted fans are going to transcribe their best phonetic guess at the lyrics and then post them on the internet, which could lead to extremely interesting results here. Searching the database at rapgenius.com reveals a few other tracks with lyrics referencing Iceland in various contexts, although most are perhaps more gratuitous (the lyricist in context was perhaps looking for someplace generically cold, someplace generically remote, someplace that sorta slant-rhymes with "license," etc.).

  2. quixote said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

    There's an mp3 of an Icelander pronouncing that name on Wikipedia. And I cannot for the life of me figure out how they get from that spelling to their pronounciation, which, much too broadly, is something like Eytlafjokull. How does Icelandic phonetics work? Interesting language.

    [(myl) Covered at length here and here.]

  3. Christopher Brown said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

    @quixote, my experience in englishifying icelandic: change every "j" into "y" and every double "ll" (at least in this case) into "tl."

    So you end up closer to Eyyafyatlayokutl, which I think is a decent transcription of the Wikipedia prononciation.

    The "tl" is not an English sound, as far as I know, but you get the idea.

  4. Bloix said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

    Keep in mind also that Icelandic runs nouns together as a single word. We would spell this as Eyja Fjalla Jökull (meaning Island Mountain Glacier).

  5. Mark Mandel said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 12:02 am

    On the video, am I the only one to hear another male voice under the rapper's at the name? It's about 0:13 – 0:16, and the man is saying
    "Uh, I think it's /aɪˈfɑləˈjɑlə/ [pause] /ˈjɔʊkəl/". (For the IPA-impaired, that's "I folla yolla yokel", where "folla" is like a casual "follow" and "yolla" rhymes with it.)

    [(myl) As I said in the original post, "And for extra flavor, the track mixes in the sound of someone fumbling for the pronunciation in the background." Everyone can hear it, I imagine.]

  6. quixote said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    Thanks for the links. I'm shocked, meaning delightedly boggling, to find out that what seemed an impenetrable syllable salad is actually not far from English!

  7. Rodger C said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    My 1960 Encyclopaedia Britannica says that ll is pronounced /dl/. Is this apparent devoicing a change that's taken place in Icelandic during the 20th century?

  8. William Steed said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 7:11 pm


    The voicing is determined by its environment. It gets devoiced word-finally (or utterance finally?). That means that the first 'll' is voiced, being intervocalic, and the second is voiceless.

    This is, of course 'standard pronunciation'. I'd expect a decent amount of variation among native speakers.

  9. Chris Miller said,

    September 3, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    I don't have much of a corpus to work with, but listening to the Sigur Rós song "Hoppípolla", the ‹ll› is definitely pronounced [hɒʰpiˑˈpʰɒtla] (with lateral release on the unaspirated [t]).

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