What’s in a name: spelling “Gaddafi”

22Oct11

The “As a Linguist” blog has a new post, Wait, who just died?, on the problematic pronunciation and spelling of Colonel Gaddafi’s name.

I’ve been “translating” his name (from the Italian version, Gheddafi) just about every day since the Libyan uprising began (I work with another translator on the English version of the Italian Foreign Ministry’s website). So when the rebellion broke out we had to decide  quickly on which version to use.

We opted to follow the European Commission’s lead, Italy being a European Union country, and use Gaddafi.

From a quick search, NATO and the British Foreign Office seem to prefer Qadhafi, with some instances of Gaddafi. The BBC and the Guardian, Times and Telegraph newspapers mainly use Gaddafi. What about the rest of the English-language media?

Confession: although I write the country’s name day in, day out, I still have to stop and think if it’s Libya or Lybia (I’ve had to add it to my auto-correct list in Word).



3 Responses to “What’s in a name: spelling “Gaddafi””

  1. I wrote similar post on معمر القذافي this February. I’ve been also translating a lot of texts on the dictator so it was not an easy task to decide on a single spelling as in Polish media there are at leas three or four different spellings (together with his name). And you can also see that some journalist use two different spellings within a single text(!) More on my blog [in polish]: http://pawliszakkrzysztof.pl/blog/2011/02/24/kto-rzadzi-krajem-i-jezykiem-kadafi/

    And to quote @djxpect: So apparently Gaddafi is still alive…captured. It’s Qaddafi who has been killed. Khaddafi is still releasing audio broadcasts from Sirte

  2. Thanks for the link! And I had to laugh about your adding Libya to the auto-correct. I think I spelled it wrong every single time I typed it and had to backspace to correct more times than I can count. It just looks too much like Lydia (which also happens to be my sister’s name) and my fingers automatically type the ‘y’ first.


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