What’s in a name: spelling “Gaddafi”

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).

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

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