"According to Twitter trending topics it's spelled Gaddafi in D.C., but nationally it's Qaddafi and worldwide Gadafi/Kadhafi," Garance Franke-Ruta, an Atlantic correspondent, wrote on Twitter Monday night.
While Libya revolts against its autocratic government, the world struggles to spell the target of the protesters' name. Is it Moammar Gaddafi or Gadhafi? Both spellings could be found on the Washington Post Web site this weekend. The Stylebook at the Post has it as Gaddafi. The Stylebook at the Associated Press has it as Gadhafi.
An old Libyan Web site from 2005 had it as Qadhafi.org. The Library of Congress has the "Name Authority Record," as Muammar Qaddafi. In 2009, ABC News created a list of 112 variations of the spelling of the name.
Angry Arab spelled it Qadhdhafi today. I've been spelling it Qaddafi.
I didn't even know how his name is spelled in Arabic, so I just googled it. According to Wikipedia his name in Arabic is spelled: القذافي. If that's correct, I would transliterate that as "Élqéthafee", with the "th" inflected and pronounced like the "th" in the word "the".
I see where the confusion comes from. The problem is that the Arabic letters "ق" and "ذ" do not exist in the English alphabet. We've already been using the letter "q" to represent the Arabic letter "ق", as in the "q" in "Iraq" and "Qabbani", for example, so we should be consistent and stick with "Q" to represent the first letter of the Libyan dictator's name (after the "Él" is dropped). "ق" is definitely not "G", "Gh", "K" or "Kh". There is no English letter other than "q" that could be used to represent the Arabic letter "ق".
The Arabic letter "ذ" is best represented by "th", but again it's pronounced like the "th" in the words "the" or "other" and not like the "th" in the word "math". Angry Arab's use of "dh" (it's repeated in his spelling because it's inflected) to represent "ذ" would be OK if "dh" were not already used to represent the Arabic letter "ض", as in the name "Dhia" or "Dhiyaa".
So the best way to spell the Libyan dictator's name, after dropping the "Él", is Qéthafee.
PS: This article explains why Libyans spell it with a G instead of a Q. The Arabic letter "ق" sounds like a G in the Libyan dialect. I did not know that. I find all north African dialects difficult to understand. Many parts of his speech the other night sounded like this to me.