by Joe Shea
March 19, 2011
IT'S NOT HOW YOU SPELL HIS NAME THAT COUNTS
BRADENTON, Fla., March 19, 2011 -- As Tomahawk missiles from offshore American carriers and ordnance from French Rafale jets rain down fire and death on the Libyan troops and mercenaries of its murderous, erratic leader, the last thing he's worried about is how they spell his name in the headlines of American newspapers. And there's the rub.
How do you kill a guy whose name you can't spell - if, say, we sent out an order to do so to our troops near Tripoli?
Can't you just hear the Libyan dictator, confronted by an assassin, asking "Who did you come to kill?" And then, "How do you spell that?" Then, on hearing the spelling, he says, "Oh, that's not me. I spell it so-and-so. You're looking for that other guy with a fez, wild hair, wearing a blanket and robes... ."
I've learned the hard way never to criticize another publication for their spelling errors, although I often alert them. That's because it's a particular sin loaded with souped-up karma that rebounds on you hours after you commit it. So don't take the fact that major news organization may have their own idiosyncratic ways of spelling the name of Libya's leader as a criticism, not only because it's meant as praise, in a way, but also because they don't listen, anyway.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spells it "Qadhafi," or at least her speechwriters do. And she knows the guy.
But according to the Associated Press, which is the great common denominator of American journalism, the name should be spelled "Ghadafi." That makes some sense, but it obviously misses a beat, because the proper pronunciation is "kad - daf - i" and the AP spelling is spoken as "ka - daf -i."
According to the best newspaper in the world, the New York Times, and also Fox News and Bloomberg - which I might say makes for a really odd basket of fish - there's no "g" and no "h," and also two "f"s - it's "Qadaffi." Wikipedia goes with that, too, by the way.
The American Reporter, of course, spells it correctly: "Ghaddafi." That includes the "Gh" of the AP, the "dd" of the Washington Post, and "i" of the Los Angeles Times and all but the New York Daily News, the largest-circulation independent daily tabloid in America, which uses a "y" at the end.
Remember, you've got to have an independent newspaper to spell things independently of others - sort of like the old Chicago Tribune publisher, Gen. Robert McCormick, a very independent man who decided he'd spell lots of things his way - he took the "ugh" out of "though" - and to hell with the etymologists.
Those of the hive-minded persuasion - CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the St. Petersburg Times - all spell it the same way, of course, which would be the AP's "Gadhafi." In fact, the only way to know what publications are part of the general conspiracy is to see how they spell his name.
The McCormick influence is still felt in the way the L.A. Times - bought out by the Tribune Co. a few years ago - spells the Libyan dictator's name: "Kadafi," which is phonologically-sound and McCormick-simple. His other big daily was the New York Daily News, but his writ didn't seem to run with his editors there. Their spelling, "Khadafy," with the artsy "h" and the "y" flourish, seems designed to poke a stick in the dead general's eye.
The New York Post," ignoring the rival (AP) spelling of their own News Corporation flagship, the Wall Street Journal, spells it "Khadafy," like their giant cross-town tabloid rival, the New York Daily News. Maybe those two are on the same page, after all!
No one, I might add, spells it "Ghaddafi," as does The American Reporter, America's one truly independent daily newspaper. But that won't save the Colonel's beans.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of the American Reporter and singlehandedly responsible for all of its misspellings. Write him with your local newspaper's variation on the spelling of Ghaddafi at firstname.lastname@example.org.