Placeplace and Other Places (PS)


palli-dl“Markvörður frá Jamaíku til Selfyssinga” (“Goalkeeper from Jamaica to Selfoss”), was a headline in the daily newspaper Morgunblaðið yesterday.

The story was about the female football (soccer) team of Selfoss signing the 22-year-old goalkeeper Nicole McClure from Jamaica.

From Jamaica, I thought. Do the play football (soccer) there?

She was in the starting team in all 17 games for the University of South Florida last year, recording a goal against the average of 1.22 and made 81 saves last season.

And she is from Jamaica, a neighborhood in the borough of Queens just north of the JFK international airport on Long Island, NY, USA.

In geography, names can be misleading.

Selfoss is part of Árborg, and you also have Arborg in Manitoba and even Husavik, Reykjavik, Geyser and Hecla Island.

You have London in Ontario, Paris in Texas and also Spanish Fork, and there are more than ten towns and cities named La Paz in Latin America.

But there is only one town in the world called Kirkjubæjarklaustur in Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla.

Or Staðarstaður in Staðarsveit on Snæfellsnes peninsula. A good name.

In English the farm’s name means “Placeplace in Place District”.

And the name of the famous Eyjafjallajökull means “Island-Mountain-Glacier”.

Vatnajökull is “Water-Glacier”, Landmannalaugar is “Land-People-Pools”, Þingvellir means “Parliament-Plains” and the mountain Herðubreið is called “Broad-Shoulder”.

And names can be long in Icelandic.

When I was young, I thought this was the longest word in the world: Vaðlaheiðarverkamannavegavinnuskúr (“a road workers’ cabin on Mt. Vaðlaheiði").

In my passport there is one long word. And especially in Africa, were they take passports seriously, I sometimes have to pronounce my birthplace several times: Öxarfjarðarhreppur.

But the name is short compared to the town in Wales which has the world’s longest place name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Population 3,041.

The shortest place name in Iceland is Á. It’s the name of a farm meaning "river".

There are no rivers to cross if you drive the 25 kilometers from downtown Reykjavík to Kleifarvatn (“Fissure Lake”).

First you take road 418, past Öskjuhlíð (“Ash Slope”) and enter road 40 down to Fossvogsdalur (“Waterfall-Cove-Valley”), onwards to Arnarnesholt (“Eagle-Cape-Hill”) and then turn to road 42 at Hvaleyrarhraun (“Whale-Sandbank-Lava”).

The you drive trough Selhraun (“Seal-Lava”) and Bruni (“Fire”) to Háibruni (“High-Fire”) and Vatnsskarð (“Water Pass”). After the pass, you pass the mountain Vatnshlíðarhorn (“Water-Slope-Horn”) before you reach Kleifarvatn.

Have a safe journey: góða ferð.

Páll Stefánsson – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.