This post is an urgent one. I cannot set it on the back burner for long. Right now, people are talking about Qaddafi and his name is frequently in the news. But this will change once he is killed. So I do hope he stays alive long enough for me to publish this post. After that he can die and I don’t care.
Many have agonized over how to spell the S.O.B.’s name. Cecil, of the straight dope, writes:
Lord knows I hate to be critical, but the proliferation of spellings for the name of Libya’s head dude has been one of the continuing scandals of American journalism. I mean, come on, we’re trying to plumb this guy’s psychic depths and we can’t even get his name straight? Sometimes I shudder for the future of my country.
I count at least 12 different ways to spell the colonel’s handle, including Qaddhafi (New York Review of Books), Qaddafi (New Republic), Gaddafi(Time), Kaddafi (Newsweek), Khadafy (Maclean’s), Qadhafi (U.S. News & World Report), Qadaffi (Business Week), and Gadaffi (World Press Review).Libya’s UN mission, in an effort to spread further confusion, spells the name Qathafi, and I know I’ve seen Gadaafi somewhere. To make matters worse, the Library of Congress and the Middle East Studies Association, to whom one would ordinarily look for guidance, have a fondness for Qadhdhafi, which is an abomination unto God. I think you now begin to grasp the dimensions of the problem…
He goes on to say the the colonel himself spelled it, in English, as Gadhafi. But what about pronunciation? The initial letter of his name, called Qaf, is often colloquially pronounced like the English hard g, hence the colonel’s spelling. But the original classical/formal Arabic pronunciation is a sound the sounds somewhere between a hard g and a k but a bit more emphatic – in other words, you let the air out all at once. With the hard g, there is a nasal element because, as you take your time allowing the air to flow out your mouth, some of it goes toward your nose (This is my take on it anyway). With the k, all of the air goes out the mouth, so the nasal element is absent. With the Qaf, the contact between both sides of the throat is a bit deeper and the separation more abrupt. That’s about as well as I can describe it. Here is a YouTube video that illustrates it quite well; you can skip to position 1:50. Note: There are regional variations (even within what is considered the Classical pronunciation) of this letter; some say it more sharply while others say it more bluntly
The next letter, Arabic having no consonant letters (we’ll get to the vowels later), is dh or dhal. It is pronounced like the th in “there“. However, in this particular case, this letter is doubled as if you were saying “loath_there” in quick succession.
There is no confusion about the final “fi” (fee).
The vowel after the initial Qaf is somewhat in between the a of American English “cat” and the British version of it. It is said quickly here and you should not linger on this vowel – but let it lead to the following double dh immediately.
The last vowel, the one between the double dh and “fi“, is elongated. You open your mouth more and let it live out its entire life before fading into the final “fi“.
In conclusion, the “ungodly” Qadhdhafi is, indeed, the best phonetic rendition of this name – if we are going by Classical/Formal Arabic. And there you have it. A nice tidbit of useless information from jewamongyou. Useless, that is, unless you wish to impress people at parties with your worldly knowledge. If they end up shunning you as an eccentric, you can blame it on me.