All Together Now: Ayva-Fiat-Yogurt-Merkel!

It’s been about a week since that Icelandic volcano whateveritscalled has been busy shutting down European airspace and bringing us back to the steamship age while causing news anchors to trip over its multisyllabic name. Now Al Jazeera English has aired this handy little primer for pronouncing — uh, the volcano’s name.

Employing a rebus word puzzle to simplify the pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull, they break it down into several smaller words including a famous Italian car brand, a dairy snack and the Chancellor of Germany. They also bring on an Icelandic musician who has a totally unintelligible but charming song played on ukelele to help us remember how to pronounce it.

That’s all amusing and a lovely diversion for the thousands of travelers stuck in airports, but if you ever really want to know how to pronounce tongue-twisting foreign words, trust the pros in the radio world where their primary job is not to come up with graphic stunts for cameras but to write and speak crisply and clearly for their listeners. For example, NPR has this phonetic pronunciation guide to Iraqi people and place names. And Voice of America has an entire library of recordings that demonstrate how to pronounce almost any name or place you can think of. Except Eyjafjallajökull.

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.