GOOD

Fascinating: The Definitive Explanation of Why Gaddafi's Name Is Spelled So Many Ways

Spelling the Libyan dictator's name is complicated by a "perfect storm" of linguistic issues.


So is it Gaddafi, Qaddafi, or Kadafi, or none of those—Qadhafi perhaps? Usually this is something you could ignore, but with the Libyan dictator—we write "Gaddafi" around these parts—currently going to war with rebel forces in his country, it's become downright confusing to read several versions of the name of one brutal man every day. What the hell is up with all those different spellings?

Today, the Associated Press’s Middle East Regional Enterprise Editor Lee Keath gives what should come to be know as the definitive answer to that question:


[T]he spelling is complicated by a perfect storm of issues: Arabic letters or sounds that don't exist in English, differences in pronunciation between formal Arabic and dialects, and differences between transliteration systems.

Let’s look at it Arabic letter by Arabic letter:

His name’s first letter is the Qaf, representing a sound that does not exist in English. It’s sort of like a K but sounded from the back of the palate. (And no, it’s NOT the rough “kh” or German “ch” sound — that’s yet a different letter.)

Usually this letter is transliterated with a Q, as in Quran and Qatar and Iraq. An outdated but still seen transliteration is K, as in Koran.

However, the letter is pronounced differently in different Arabic dialects. In Libya, it’s often pronounced as a G, so that’s the letter the AP and some others use.

The next letter is the Dhal. Its sound exists in English, but not as one letter: In formal Arabic, the Dhal is pronounced like the soft “th” in “then” or “those.” It’s often transliterated as “dh,” to distinguish it from a separate letter that’s pronounced like the ”th” in “thick” or “thorn” or “throw.”

In dialect, the Dhal is often pronounced by Libyans and other Arabs as either a D or a Z — much like in English dialects where you might say “doze guys.” Thus some agencies spell Gadhafi’s name with a D or Z in the middle.

To complicate matters, the middle dhal in Gadhafi’s name is doubled – in other words, you draw it out some in pronunciation. That’s why you see Qazzafi, or Qaddafi, or the more bizarre looking Qadhdhafi or Qaththafi.

The third letter is a Fa, which is simply an F. In some spellings of Gadhafi’s name, you’ll see it doubled ‘ff’ but there’s no reason to do that, and it may just be a snarky way to slip ‘daffy’ into the eccentric Libyan leader’s name.

The last letter is a Yaa, which is simply an “ee” sound, as in “tree.” That’s why you see either a Y or an I.

How does Gadhafi himself pronounce it? That’s easy since he refers to himself in third person quite often. He tends to say “Gath-thafi” with the middle letter pronounced like the soft “th” in “either.”

But since writing it like that reads as if that middle letter is pronounced like the “th” in “ether” or “Matthew” we use “dh.” And if people read that as a D, that’s fine — it’s closer to correct than the wrong type of “th,” and many Libyans pronounce it as a D.

And doubling the “dh” looks bizarre, without changing the pronunciation much, so we just write it once.

\n

And there you have it. Click here if you'd like to find out how a series of Gaddafi's letters to schoolchildren led the AP to decide on "Gadhafi" as the correct spelling.

Articles

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughn, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via KTVU / YouTube

The 63-year-old Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, currently branded the RingCentral Coliseum, is one of the most decrepit sports venues in America.

The home to the the NFL's Oakland Raiders (until they move to Las Vegas next season) and MLB's A's, is notoriously known as the Black Hole and has made headlines for its frequent flooding and sewage issues.

One of the stadium's few positive aspects is its connection to public transportation.

Keep Reading Show less
Hero Video
via Anadirc / Flickr

We spend roughly one-third of our life asleep, another third at work and the final third trying our best to have a little fun.

But is that the correct balance? Should we spend as much time at the office as we do with our friends and family? One of the greatest regrets people have on their deathbeds is that they spent too much of their time instead of enjoying quality time with friends and family.

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom have made a significant pledge to reevaluate the work-life balance in their country.

Keep Reading Show less
Lifestyle