Yer man’s name

In the world of 24 hour rolling news, it sometimes feels like there’s an expected outcome to many stories and a timeline for reaching the end point and moving onto the next thing. Accordingly, developments in Libya’s capital Tripoli aren’t moving fast enough towards the (western) narrative’s inevitable resolution.

While I’ve been waiting, for months I’ve been noticing the diversity of spelling of the Libyan leader’s name. The BBC use Gaddafi, the Irish Times stick to Gadafy, while other outlets favour Qaddafi or Al-Qadhafi or el-Qaddafi.

In moments of confusion, turn to Wikipedia for enlightenment (and often further confusion) …

Transliteration of his Arabic name

Because of the lack of standardization of transliterating written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi’s name has been romanized in many different ways. Even though the Arabic spelling of a word does not change, the pronunciation may vary in different varieties of Arabic, which may suggest a different romanization. In Literary Arabic the name مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي can be pronounced /muˈʕammaru lqaðˈðaːfiː/. Geminated consonants can be simplified. In Libyan Arabic, /q/ (ق) is replaced with [ɡ]; and /ð/ (ذ) (as “th” in “this”) is replaced with [d]. Vowel [u] often alternates with [o] in pronunciation in other regions. Thus, /muˈʕammar alqaðˈðaːfiː/ is normally pronounced in Libyan Arabic [muˈʕæmmɑrˤ əlɡædˈdæːfi]. The definite article al- (ال) is often omitted.

“Muammar Gaddafi” is the spelling used by TIME, BBC News, the majority of the British press and by the English service of Al-Jazeera.[285] The Associated Press, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News use “Moammar Gadhafi”. The Library of Congress uses “Qaddafi, Muammar” as the primary name. The Edinburgh Middle East Report uses “Mu’ammar Qaddafi” and the U.S. Department of State uses “Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi”, although the White House chooses to use “Muammar el-Qaddafi”.[286] The Xinhua News Agency uses “Muammar Khaddafi” in its English reports.[287] The New York Times uses “Muammar el-Qaddafi”. The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times of the Tribune Company, and Agence France-Presse use “Moammar Kadafi”.[288][289]

In 1986 Gaddafi reportedly responded to a Minnesota school’s letter in English using the spelling “Moammar El-Gadhafi”.[290] The title of the homepage of reads “Welcome to the official site of Muammar Al Gathafi”.[291] A 2007 interview with Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi confirms that he uses the spelling “Qadhafi”.[292]

An article published in the London Evening Standard in 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings of his name, while a 1986 column by The Straight Dope quotes a list of 32 spellings known from the Library of Congress.[293] ABC identified 112 possible spellings.[294] This extensive confusion of naming was used as the subject of a segment of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update on 12 December 1981.[295]

In short, the alternative spellings for each part of his name are shown in brackets:

Alternative spellings for each part of Gaddafi's name

Not all are possible, as some alternatives are most probably combined with others, or even impossible with others (for example, simplification of geminated /mm/ usually implies simplification of /aː/).

Simple, eh? Next time someone spells my name Allen, I may not even mention it.

Update – Seamus Conboy reminds me that West Wing’s Leo McGarry had issues with the Libyan leader’s name too.

, ,

  • HeinzGuderian

    The despot from Libya,who armed El Beardos band of psychopathic murderers,and losers.

    How’s that ? 😉

  • Neil

    LOL HG you don’t see the irony in the current situation where Dave and chums are arming a similarly illegal band of rebels in Libya?

    Ghadaffi arming the enemies of Britain = pure evil
    Cameron arming the enemies of Libya = shining beacon of kindness and decency

    Double standards? From a Loyalist? Shocking all together.

  • andnowwhat

    Let’s not forget Neil, before that, Cameron’s predecessors were more than happy to flog the nut job shiny death toys.

    Hell, the last people I noticed with their tongue up Gaddafi’s arse was the British.

    Of course, they were trying to “bring him in from the cold” not ingratiate themselves in the hope of getting some of that high quality oil (best illustrated by the News Quiz which did a spoof of the M&S ad……this isn’t just oil….)

  • Greenflag

    @ heinz guderian ,

    ‘The despot from Libya,who armed El Beardos band of losers’

    You mean the power sharing government of Northern Ireland surely ?

    As for selling nut jobs shiny death toys Britain is not top of the the list – the USA recently took an order for 60 billion dollars for even shinier and even more death toys from the Saudi Arabians to help the Saudis shore up their budding ‘democracy ‘ sorry degenerate feudal aristocracy – nothing to do with oil of course . American Christians in Saudi Arabia will remain unable to take their bibles with them should they have an urge now and then to seek the Lord’s help in converting their eh ‘ally’ .

  • Greenflag

    Does anybody know how long these ‘yellow cards ‘ are posted for and how and when does one graduate to being ‘red carded ‘?

    Does Quincey whoever he may be ‘control ‘ the yellow card issuance or it’s duration ditto for red cards ?

  • Greenflag – ‘The yellow card is visible on your profile and all your
    comments. The card will expire in 1 day.’

  • Greenflag


    Thanks .

  • Rory Carr

    Precisely, Neil, Gadaffi would have had as much justification for arming the recent rioters in England’s cities and bombing built-up urban centres causing civiliian casualties as Cameron and his other drooling allies (salivating at the spoils in store) had in arming discontents in Libya and recklessly bombing civilian areas all the while justifying their behaviour as a protection of civilians from Libyan government action.

    If Gadaffi is to appear before a tribunal for atrocities against civilians then Cameron and Sarkozy and Obama and Berlisconi should be right up there in the dock beside him. At least the press will be able to agree on the spelling of their names.

  • According to the passport found by the rebels, it’s “Gathafi”.

  • According to his passport found by the rebels, it’s actually “Gathafi”.

  • nightrider

    If Gadaffi is to appear before a tribunal for atrocities against civilians then Cameron and Sarkozy and Obama and Berlisconi should be right up there in the dock beside him. At least the press will be able to agree on the spelling of their names.

    Well they might get the correct spelling for Berlusconi at least.

  • Rory Carr

    Just checking if you were awake, Nightrider.