Apparently Iceland is considering changing its name to something more commensurate with the island's natural beauties and amenities, among which, apparently, ice plays only a small part.
For years, Iceland has been known to Americans -- the young ones, at least -- as a stop on a grueling but cheap flight to Europe aboard the aged prop planes of Icelandic Air.
Then it was a participant in the banking and real-estate bubble that made many people wealthy on paper until the bubble popped, the banks failed and the government fell.
Then, in 2010 and 2011, two volcanic eruptions disrupted air travel to Europe, reminding unsophisticated travelers thinking of a trip to Iceland that if a fast-moving glacier didn't get you, maybe a volcano would. Indeed, one of the suggested names that we suspect won't make the cut is "Volcanicland."
In any case, perhaps a new name is in order; countries do it more often than you might think. Sometimes it's to mark an end to colonial rule. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe; the Gold Coast became Ghana (although now that "Gold Coast" is up for grabs, Iceland might want to consider throwing it into the mix); British Honduras is Belize, and there is a whole bunch of Pacific Islands with new names that few can keep straight. (Vanuatu? Tuvalu?)
Sometimes one suspects that a country changes its name in hopes of changing its luck. The Belgian Congo became the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then Zaire and then back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It suffered terribly under each name.
Anyway, Iceland's tourist authorities are holding a contest to choose a new name. The Promote Iceland committee will select one sometime after March 21.
Frankly, the early suggestions make keeping the current name look more and more attractive -- Niceland, Rockland, Catch-A-Cloud Land, Spiritland, Birdsland, the aforementioned Volcanicland and one that will never get by the real-estate people, Eyjafjlakojland, after the giant volcano that recently blew up. Icelanders seem to be honest in their choice of names. No one has recommended calling it East Palm Beach or Hawaii's Other Big Island.
Iceland, like Greenland, may have gotten its name originally as part of a real-estate scam. One story is that a Viking explorer named Floki Vilgeroarson visited the island in the ninth century and found it so pleasant that he named it Iceland in hopes that the forbidding name would keep out interlopers.
Eric the Red, another Viking, was said to have been exiled to a huge frozen island that he promptly named Greenland in hopes that others would come and join him. Even now, few have. The population is only around 57,000.
The Icelandic government has made no commitment to change the country's name. It may not want to. If global warming is moving as fast as they say it is, the opportunity to see ice might soon become a tourist attraction.opinion_commentary
Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service (www.shns.com). First Published November 11, 2012 12:00 AM