Traffic sign pointing to Tripoli, Libya.

Take a look at any news source today and you’ll see the name of Libya’s de facto leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi. Look a little closer and you’ll see a multitude of spellings for the notorious politician’s surname such as Gaddafi, Kadafi and Qaddafi. Why does a name that has been making headlines for decades have so many varied spellings?

Transliteration – the transcription of a word, or in this case a name, into corresponding letters of another alphabet – is the reason. The Arabic script is oftentimes unvocalized – in other words the vowels are rarely written out and must be furnished by a reader familiar with the language. As with Chinese and Hindi, the Arabic script contains a copious amount of diacritics – dots and accents added to a letter to change the sound. In addition, there seems to be an absence of any sort of authority for transliterating Arabic names.

The Arabic language is one of the most widely spoken Semitic languages in the world and the pronunciation of words varies with different across regions. Even among Arabic speakers, Arabic of North Africa is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker from the Gulf Region.

A famous roadblock for any Arabic to English translator is the Arabic q. Depending on the region, pronunciation varies so much that the first letter of Gaddafi can be replaced with a q, k or gh sound. This helps to explain the numerous interpretations for Gaddafi.

The variation of spelling may depend on what news source you choose to gather your information from. The Associated Press and CNN favor Gadhafi, the New York Times spells it el-Qaddafi and the Los Angeles Times uses Kadafi. Interestingly, Al Jazeera, which uses Gaddafi, does not use the el article in the name while the New York Times does.

Better Business / Don’t pay for scholarship info; it’s available for free

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) March 9, 2011 | Randy Hutchinson According to The College Board, $94 billion in grants were made to college students in the 2009-2010 school year. Funding sources include federal and state governments, institutions, private entities and employers. Scholarships are awarded based on financial need, athletic or other abilities and other criteria. People are often overwhelmed sorting through the various options and requirements.

Scam artists follow the money and prey on confusion. Every year, the Better Business Bureau hears from parents who paid money upfront for help and received little or nothing in return or got information that was readily available for free. A spokesman for the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office warns that people should “understand that most of these companies are just taking your money and giving you free information and some of them are just taking your money.” A Texas company sends prospective college students a letter explaining they have been selected for a personal interview. Students who call for their interview end up being scheduled for a financial aid seminar, with many other students and parents there at the same time. Complainants say they paid more than $1,000 for help finding aid, but the services offered were mostly assistance in filling out financial aid forms. go to website free grant money

Complaints about a Florida company allege that people thought they were taking advantage of a free trial CD-ROM on how to get federal grants for college, but were charged as much as $69 even before receiving the information in the mail. Those who did receive the information complained that it wasn’t helpful at all.

The BBB recommends listening for these red flags when receiving a sales pitch for help in securing a scholarship or other financial aid:

“The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” In reality no one can guarantee that they will get you a grant or scholarship. The refund guarantees usually have so many conditions or strings attached that it’s almost impossible for consumers to get their money back. here free grant money

“You cannot get this information anywhere else.” Scholarship information is widely available in books, from libraries and financial aid offices and on the Internet, if you’re willing to search for it.

“We’ll do all the work.” Only parents and students can really gather and provide the financial information needed to complete the forms.

“You’ve been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship.” If you haven’t entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be selected.

“May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?” Providing this information is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.

“The scholarship will cost some money.” Legitimate scholarship offers don’t require payment of any kind.

Check out any company or unsolicited offer with the BBB.

And for more information on finding financial aid for school, visit fafsa.gov.

Randy Hutchinson is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Contact him at rhutchinson@bbbmidsouth.org.

Randy Hutchinson


  1. Corrección del manuscrito | ¿Y que paso luego? -  April 3, 2013 - 11:35 pm

    [...] de otras lenguas y sobre los que no hay un consenso común sobre como traducir (¿Se acuerdan de la controversia sobre como se escribía el nombre de Muammar al-Gaddafi?). También se necesitan criterios bien definidos sobre las abreviaturas, siglas, acrónimos y [...]

  2. Luis -  October 27, 2011 - 9:25 am


    What makes him a politician?

    Politician – noun
    1. a person who is active in party politics.

    2. a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.

    3. a person who holds a political office.

    4.a person skilled in political government or administration; statesman or stateswoman.

    5. an expert in politics or political government.

    6. a person who seeks to gain power or advancement within an organization in ways that are generally disapproved.
    In what universe do you live in?

  3. Craig -  October 21, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Does it even matter much?

  4. Carl -  October 21, 2011 - 12:52 pm

    Why not just call him “Daffy” to avoid confusion? It’s a good nickname, and has a nice ring to it….

  5. Vikhaari -  October 21, 2011 - 12:43 pm

    Yet another interesting and informative article.

  6. TOMUNC -  October 21, 2011 - 12:07 pm

    Personally, when attempting to claim Arabic spellings for myself I would be more inclined to follow the lead of Al Jazeera than say The New York Times.

  7. Xavier -  October 21, 2011 - 9:42 am

    I think that ammar attar’s explanation made the most sense.

  8. Ed -  October 21, 2011 - 7:22 am

    Saman F, there is no Persia anymore. Please correct that.

  9. Khouloud -  October 21, 2011 - 6:34 am

    Either way, (former) Libyan leader مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي‎ has died on October 20, 2011.
    Wikipedia article on him has been updated.

  10. Dr Arabia -  October 21, 2011 - 5:20 am


  11. Dean -  October 21, 2011 - 4:38 am

    I have always say that, the most important part of your articles is the the “after thoughts’, the comments, and this article proves that to the “t’. Now I am left more confused than before I read it.
    Guess I will just have to ‘pick sense out of nonsense”.

  12. Brianne -  October 21, 2011 - 1:32 am

    There is a standard transliteration guide used in the United States, which does not use the roman letters c, e, or o. His name spelled in Arabic is مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي. Using this guide, his name would be spelled Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi

  13. sarmad shah -  October 21, 2011 - 1:29 am

    In Pakistan, since urdu is the national language of this country it comprises of many Arabic words and urdu is the synthesis of Arabic, Persian, Turk, Sindhi, Hindi etc. In Pakistan it is pronunced as “QaZZafi”
    in addition to Qaddafi, Gaddafi and Ghaddafi.

  14. Bruno Santos -  October 21, 2011 - 12:46 am

    But I reckon that we should write Qadhaafi…

  15. Bruno Santos -  October 21, 2011 - 12:43 am

    Muammar Khadafi – In Portugal and almost all european countries writes this way.

  16. Jojo -  October 20, 2011 - 10:27 pm


    cool info! but..is everything dictionary.com said wrong? i bet not ALL of it is wrong…right?

    i’m not an expert in this “Arabic” field, if you will, but I think some parts might be correct… :D

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