August 31, 2011
Have you ever seen numerous spellings for the name of the fading leader of Libya?
In Arabic, Qadhafi’s name is spelled القذافي which if you drop the article, means
ق – ذ – ا – ف – ي or q – dh – a – f – i. The “q” letter is almost unique to Arabic (sometimes called “the language of the qaf” — sorry, it’s the language of the dhad, not qaf!) and often transliterated as a “k”, since its pronounciation can be difficult for non-Arabic speakers.
It is standard in classical Arabic and places like Fes in northern Morocco, but northern Egyptians, urban Syrians and others often pronounce this letter as a glottal stop, while southern Egyptians and Bedouins most often pronounce as a “g”, as in “go”. (This is why in Syria upscale Damascenes call the regime “the government of the Qaf”, because pronouncing the letter is a country bumpkin thing to do, and Eastern Sunnis and Alawites — long dominant in the regime — often do it). Hence you see Qadhafi, Kadhafi or Gadhafi. The “dh” sound also has no equivalent in many languages as a standalone letter, and to top it off is made emphatic by a shedda — a kind of accent that indicates the letter should be doubled, which is why academics use the unwieldy “Qadhdhafi.” And the “dh” is often not pronounced as such — in most colloquial Arabics, it is pronounced “d”. I’m not sure why it might be pronounced “th”, but perhaps this was used in Qadhafi’s passport because it is close to the English sound in “the”, which sounds very much like “dh”.
H/T: The Dish
July 2, 2011
First up, Anglo-Saxon. The rest of the series is here.
June 10, 2011
Listverse has a great (and informative) list
“Enormity” means “extreme evil”, but it’s often used to mean “enormousness”. US President, George HW Bush missed this one when he said after being elected that he “Couldn’t believe the enormity of the situation.” A perfect example of irony (which, in the context I have just used it, is correct).