Media outlets just can’t seem to agree on how to spell “Gadhafi” (“Gaddafi”? “Gaddafi”? “Qadhafi”?)

Media outlets just can’t seem to agree on how to spell “Gadhafi” (“Gaddafi”? “Gaddafi”? “Qadhafi”?)

The man in question a on poster in Tripoli (Image: Gary Denham) 

This is surely the least important aspect of what is happening in Libya, but every time there’s an Arabic name in the news, we’re amazed at how little agreement there is between English transliterations on the spelling. For the record—well, according to Wikipedia—the current leader of Libya’s name is معمر القذافي. It’s when that name gets turned in to something printable with the Roman alphabet that things get messy. A quick scan of local media gets us the following:

Moammar Gadhafi: Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, CBC
Muammar Gaddafi
: National Post, Toronto Sun
Moammar Gaddafi

And this just begins to scratch the surface of the number of ways the Libyan leader’s name can be spelled. None of these sources spell Gadhafi with a “q,” even though some sources say that’s the most precise spelling. (We’re doing our part for national unity by totally ignoring French-language media.) According to ABC News, there are 112 of them. The difficulty in any transliteration gets even more complex with the differences between Arabic dialects.

Again, this is not the most important part of this story right now. And it took centuries for English to standardize its spelling—something that’s still not complete. So maybe we’ll just continue to note these things to ourselves until Americans and Brits agree on how to spell “aluminum.”

• How Many Different Ways Can You Spell ‘Gaddafi’? [ABC News]