Will the real Mu or Mo please stand up?

Dateline: Thu 20 Oct 2011

From a reader:

Apparently there's no consensus as to the name of the recently-departed Libyan dictator. I've seen four different spellings of his name:

"Muammar Qaddafi (New York Times)

"Moammar Kadafi (LA Times)

"Moammar Gadhafi (CNN, NPR, Indy Star, via AP)

"Muammar Gaddafi (BBC)

"I just thought it was kind of interesting."

'Tis.

Here's the rub: Journalism, not being a profession (despite what some believe) has neither a standard handbook for spellings, grammar, punctuation, aronyms, etc., nor a code of ethics.

My favorite example of lack of both handbook and code was when I was still at the Indianapolis Star and wrote something in a column that included a mention of Osama bin Laden (this was pre-2006, and the spelling of his name was often in dispute -- Fox spells it Usama bin Laden, for instance).

Nonetheless, the sleepytime copy editor ran spell check and changed the reference from Osama to Obama.

Youch.  This explains why sometimes corrections begin, "Due to an editing error..."

Did you know Osama means big cat or feline predator?

And this just in....Arabic uses a different alphabet than Latin, and letters do not necessarily correpsond in English. That may explain the discrepancies.

 


Comments

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

<I>Arabic uses a different alphabet than Latin</I>

And, a different alphabet than English as well.

(Doesn't anyone remember when the English spellings of Chinese names was changed? When Peking became Beijing?)

2011-10-20 23:32:03

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Seen in an editorial cartoon: "Khaddafy" (Jeff Danziger).

2011-10-21 08:37:06

hendy [Member] said:

Even inglish can b phun, Rooth. Sum o mi editers go bursurk when thay c neuw varryashuns in speling. But we kin unnerstan kadafee. Pur misgydead fella.

2011-10-21 08:43:49

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

KJ: All the different spellings are probably correct. The difficulty, according to "The Atlantic," is that Mu'ammar changed his preference often. And:

All diplomatic passports required Latinized texts. Translation form strict Arabic to Latinized text, for something that's amoving target, is difficult.

The version you typed, is the latest, probably fed from rebel forces who are now running Libya. There is some strategic mileage to be gained from mis-prnouncing a despot Middle Eastern leader's name...remember Pres. Geoprge HW Bush and his infamous "Sah-DAMM"? His particular enunciation had a very different meaning in the native tongue, and it was a not-so-gentle jab delivered daily.


2011-10-25 07:04:56

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