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Libyan leader: What's in a name

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

One of the things all newspapers are conscious of is getting names right. That’s why we feel sorry for those who have to edit stories about the recent uprising in Libya.

Here are just a few of the references we found about the Libyan leader:

Muammar Gaddafi (BBC and Reuters)

Moammar Gadhafi (Wall Street Journal, Associated Press)

Muammar Qaddhafi (The Economist)

Muammar al-Gaddafi (Wikipedia)

Moamar Gaddafi (ABC News)

Moammar Kadafi (Los Angeles Times)

Muammar el-Qaddafi (New York Times)

And to top it off, when you run these names through spell check on our machines, it comes back as Kaddafi.

What’s an editor to do?

We have enough trouble with American names. People tend to give odd spellings to what should be common names, thinking that it’s “cute” when the youngsters are young. Well, most of those kids grow up, at least physically, and to many of them odd names don’t seem “cute,” at least when they have to spell their name every time someone wants to write it down.

It makes you wonder what the Libyan leader’s family wanted to name their son. We’re sure there are ethnic reasons for each of the spellings, but we’re equally sure that the leader and his family have a preferred spelling. We wonder of any of these foreign journalists have ever asked him?

As for us, we’re unlikely to write many stories about him anyway, unless he decides to retire to one of our communities after he’s deposed in Libya. Then we’ll ask him how he wants it spelled.