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Brother Linguist

August 21, 2009
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 معمر القذافيAt ‘Aqoul, a discussion erupts on how to spell the Libyan leader’s name in English. The Lounsbury argues for Qadhdhafi or Qaddafi, but there are alternative spellings galore.

So what does the man himself prefer? I did some research, and judging by his official homepage, he’s as predictable as always: he wants AL Gathafi in English, El Gathafi in French, AL Gadafi in Spanish, Al-Gadhafi in German, Al Ghedaffi in Italian, and so on and on in various non-Latin-lettered languages.

But to you lot, he’s the Brother Leader.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2009 20:18

    Eh bother. Some things are clearly wrong [his name with KH e.g.], others merely taste. My taste was actually the subject of the convo, Eva Luna has a history of such pointless comments which irritate me.

  2. August 21, 2009 22:07

    I think the multiple spellings are the result of laziness. Representing the Qaf as a “k” is lazy, as “Qaf” and “Kaf” are two distinct sounds. What are we going to do when we get some Libyan idiot whose name starts with “Kaf”? Use a “q”? The “proper” (English) transliteration system renders these two very well. Why doesn’t a journalist pick up a book on the subject? (Some have; the editor of the Middle East Institute blog, actually posted on his experience dealing with this as such, so it isn’t too hard.) To make it into s “Kh” is ignorant. Period. To make it “G” is to show an appreciation for folk culture. At the same time, one ought to oppose the vulgarization of such things. It makes for obnoxious spellings. Not unlike the popular English spelling for “Jamal Abd al-Nasir (Abd an-Nasir, if you like),” “Gamal Abdel Nasser.” Some say “Egyptians pronounce Jim like a hard G…” So what? No other Arabs do, and there is no such sound exists in proper Arabic. The folks in the Egyptian street speak vulgar Arabic and thus English speakers ought to use vulgarizations of first names (not nicknames, first names)? What utter childishness. Now we have Gamal Mubarak/Mubarak/Mbarek/however you’d like that to be rendered. So now Anglophones and Egyptians both cannot pronounce Arabic names properly. This in my opinion and taste.

    As for the dhal: It isn’t a d. It’s a separate letter and sound. “Th” makes sense; “dh” makes better sense. Most people probably don’t know what to make of it. Perhaps if it were used more often they’d pick it up.

    To take count for the shaddah with two sets of “dh” is rational but cumbersome, in my opinion. Using the double “d” for this is to encourage mispronunciation, but such is natural (not to say it should be encouraged).

    As for the “yaa” at the end of his name; well, that’s what it is. “Qadhafy” looks stupid and uses “y” when the most useful transliteration systems use “i” and where “i” is more directly instructive.

    As for names generally, I find it interesting that “controversy” arrives especially around North African names. Few people wrangle over wether to write “Gamal” or “Jamal” Mubarek. That, in my view, is an instance where there ought to be a controversy. Let’s use peasant talk or let’s use his actual proper name? Nobody is spinning around because there’s more than one way to write “Hafiz al-Assad” or “Bashar al-Assad” (“Hafiz” could be, as Moroccans and Algerians sometimes like to write “Hafid”; though “z” is better). How about Saddam Hussein? No great agony over how to spell that in English, despite the multiple ways to spell حسین. But one hears even eastern Arabs complain about “bizarre” North African names; some of that is ignorance, especially when heard from an Egyptian or Lebanese. The poorly applied transliteration schemes (if at all systematized) are the result of French efforts; in the first place writing down Arabic names without a real way of rendering them consistently) and the fact that they often made up names in place of people’s actual tribal or clan names (e.g. an Algerian American acquaintance from Laghouat has a name entirely unrelated to her clan, because the French authorities transliterated it incorrectly; rather than “Nedjadi” or “Nejadi” (from نجد) it comes out to something meaning a type of livestock). Then you have people who complain that North African names are out of nowhere, but in fact this is the result of bad transliteration; Maroiane is not a strange name; it is no different from “Marwan” or “Marouane” or however else you’re spelling it. An Egyptian once said to me “that Tunisian president sure a funny name”. What does that mean? It looks funny in Roman letters but there is no reason that it should sound funny to anybody who knows Arabic. “Bouteflika” (which I would prefer to spell “Boutefliqa,” but alas); like many other North African names, the gnome has “Bou” in the front of his last name instead of “Abu”; a Syrian once asked “what does “Bou” mean?” Excuse me? At least there is no continuous and idiotic debate about how to spell “Bouteflika”. That debate might get emotional, and someone might propose “Boutefchrika”. A car bomb would go off and we’d all have to talk about that instead of how to spell his name, for the same of “peace”.

    Again, these are my tastes and opinions, that’s all.

  3. Annouss permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:05

    I just looooove the picture🙂

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