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Iceland considers name change to seem more inviting, less icy

GRAND FORKS - Remember when some people in North Dakota suggested dropping "North" and changing the name to just Dakota as a way to make the place seem warmer and more inviting?

The idea never got much traction (too much snow that year, perhaps). But now the North Atlantic island nation of Iceland is toying with making a name change to get people's minds off ... well, ice, as well as the country's recent financial problems and that volcano that spewed enough ash to disrupt trans-Atlantic air travel two years ago.

(The volcano ... now, there's a candidate for a name change: Eyjafjlakojland.)

The newspaper USA Today carried a report last week on a promotion sponsored by Iceland's tourism office, including a contest seeking proposals for a new name.

One suggestion so far: Niceland. Others listed on the tourism department's website, include such warm-and-fuzzy names as Tranquilityland, Serenityland and Togetherland. But others seem to miss the point of the exercise, such as Smoggyland and Northland.

The contest will end March 21 (a date chosen, obviously, because it marks the spring solstice; cue warm thoughts). The tourism office promises to pass at least some suggestions on to the government.

OK with ice

Several northeastern North Dakota communities including Mountain, Concrete and Gardar are largely populated by descendants of Icelandic immigrants, and they gather each Aug. 2 to celebrate their heritage. High Icelandic officials, including the president, have joined in the festivities, which usually attract busloads of Icelandic tourists.

David Hillman, 72, of Walhalla, N.D., is vice president of the Icelandic Communities Association, which sponsors the "August the Deuce" celebrations. He traces all of his grandparents to Iceland, and he has visited the country.

And there is absolutely no need, he said, to go looking for a new national name.

"When I hear the name, I don't think of ice," Hillman said. "I think of heritage, and of how modern the country is today. I have a good friend there, and I have a bunch of relatives on both sides.

"I think there's something special about the name 'Iceland,' and I think it's good just the way it is."