Gadaffi? Kadafi?Qaddafi? Which is it?
The news reports about Muammar Gadaffi being killed today bring up a more trivial question: why do we see his name spelled so many different ways?
Translating Arabic words to English is difficult because the languages use different alphabets and there are no set rules to correlate the Arabic letters to the Latin letters we use in English. When we see Arabic words written in English, they’re actually not a translation, but a transliteration—a representation of how the Arabic words would sound if they were written in the Latin alphabet. Since sounds can be interpreted slightly different ways, you'll see "Gadaffi," "Kadafi," "Qaddafi," and so on.
It’s the same reason you see “Koran” spelled a few different ways in English publications including “Koran,” “Quran,” and “Qur’an.” There isn’t a right or wrong way; it’s a style choice.
Translating from Hebrew has the same problems, which is why there are many acceptable spellings for “Hanukkah.”
O’Carroll, E. “Gadaffi? Kadafi? Qadaffi? What’s the correct spelling?” Christian Science Monitor, February 22, 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2011/0222/Gaddafi-Kadafi-Qaddafi-What-s-the-correct-spelling (accessed April 20, 2011)
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