How do you pronounce "Qaddafi"?

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.

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11 Responses to How do you pronounce "Qaddafi"?

  1. I spell his name like this: Ghadaphee

  2. destructure says:

    I always spelled it Q diddy. Because he be keepin’ it real wit farrakhan and jeremiah wright.
    There’s no doubt Q diddy was a despicable troll. But as much as I’d like him dead I’m not sure we need him dead. He was kind of like Mubarak and Saddam Hussein. They were bastards but they served a purpose. They were more or less secular dictators who kept the radicals in check. Without them the radicals will fill the vacuum and create a real mess for themselves and us. I can’t believe the US is backing these revolutions. When the dust settles and the radicals take over, we’ll be going to war. I don’t know how long it will take. But the die is cast.

  3. bob sykes says:

    A few years ago, one of the major networks sent its evening news anchor to Qatar to report on the extraordinary amount of construction then going on there. In one segment he interviewed a native and asked how “Qatar” was pronounced. He was then treated to about a half dozen very different but equally correct pronunciations.
    Anyway, isn’t the point to kill Gadhafi.

  4. Hey! A Jew made me eccentric!
    I used to love The Straight Dope but after I moved away from orthodoxy on race, crime, and cognition I became much less interested in mainstream thought in general. Mainstream channels that self-congratulate in their very titles turn me off. If you tell people a lot of stuff but carefully route around the fact that the Federal government is conniving in a war of rape, intimidation, displacement, and taxation against white people, you’re not giving them the Straight Dope.
    If someone is in a burning building and you tell them The Whole Truth about what Beckett really meant in Waiting for Godot while not mentioning the fire, you’re morally bankrupt.

  5. Meng Bomin says:

    If only we were Icelandic, we could spell it Qaððafi as ð = ذ

  6. Similarly, was it . . .
    Osama or Usama?
    Seems the media prefers Usama nowadays. Osama and Obama are too much alike.

    • jewamongyou says:

      Technically there is no “o” sound in classical Arabic. So it should be Usama. But vernacular dialects of Arabic do have the “o” sound – so I guess it depends which Arabic we are talking about.

  7. I am from Berlin, Germany, and lots of individuals right here are generally ashamed that Germany is not really fighting coupled with NATO in Libya. We didn’t comprehend the disposition of our own federal. Concerning the armed forces, Germany is just bizarre.

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