From Iceland — Iceland’s Possible Volcano Titled Þráinsskjaldarhraun: A News Anchor’s Nightmare

Iceland’s Possible Volcano Titled Þráinsskjaldarhraun: A News Anchor’s Nightmare

Published March 4, 2021

Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Ulrich Latzenhofer

So you thought Eyjafjallajökull was a hard word to pronounce? Well, if this new eruption does go off—which seems pretty likely at this moment—the technical name for it would be Sundhnjúkagígaröð in Þráinsskjaldarhraun. Feel dizzy? We understand. But just think about how everyone at the BBC will feel in a few days.

But there is a but here. Reykjanes is a compilation of five volcanic systems, so if you, for example, say that there is a volcano in Krýsuvík, that would refer to a specific area with a town of 30,000 people close by in danger. But if you say there’s a volcano in Reykjanes, an Icelander would ask, what part? This is like saying there’s a volcano in California when you mean there’s a volcano in San Francisco.

Right now, the seismic activity is close to Fagradalsfjall, which is a small volcanic system that hasn’t erupted in 6,000 years. That said, it’s also possible that the fissure volcano will erupt from the ‘Sundhnjúkagígaraðarinnar in Svartsengi’ which is next to Fagradalsfjall. And don’t panic if you feel like you’re having a stroke while reading this. It’s a hard sentence for even Icelanders to take in.

The truth is though that nobody really is going to call the volcano ‘Sundhnjúkagígaröðin’ for it’s merely the technical name for the underground system. But does that mean we’re out of the woods? No. Þráinsskjaldarhraun is where the eruption will most likely come up, if and when it does. So the right term for the volcano would actually be Þráinsskjaldarhrauni. Now, you could also add that it erupted close to Fagradalsfjall. But that doesn’t sound much easier, does it?

So Þráinsskjaldarhraun—what does this endless 20-letter word even mean? Well, it’s complicated. Þráinn is a name. Skjöldur is a shield. And hraun means lava. How did that become a name for the area? No idea. Probably some saga thing.

However, if the volcano does go off, it will be absolutely hilarious for Icelanders—and the rest of the world—to listen to newspeople try to pronounce this name: Þráinsskjaldarhraun. God bless.

Suddenly Eyjafjallajökull doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?

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