Monthly Archives: March 2008

99 Facts about Mu’ammar Qadhafi

The president of Libya is quite a character, approaching Kim-Jong-Il crazy. Here are some facts:

99- Qadhafi has a personal bodyguard comprised of 40 women trained in martial arts, known as the Amazonian Guard.

98- In 1999 Qadhafi announced his invention of a rocket car, the Saroukh el-Jamahiriya.

97- Although he has ruled Libya since 1969, Qadhafi holds no public office or title. He is referred to as the “Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” or “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” in government statements and the official press.

96- Qadhafi has an entry on the Internet Movie DataBase.

95- In 1998 Qadhafi wrote Escape to Hell and other stories.

I’m not sure I can come up with 94 more, but I will post them as they come to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian

More About Qadhafi’s Name

Like a dog worrying a bone, I have to go back to that list of 87 supposedly official ways to spell the name of the Libyan president in English.

It’s probably best to start with the first name first. Unless I missed one or two, 79 of those ‘spellings’ start with his first name, which we’ll render as Mu’ammar. One of the other spellings starts with his way-out-of-date title, Mulazim Awwal, which means first lieutenant. He hasn’t held that rank since sometime in the mid- to late-sixties. Time to update your encyclopedias, fellas.

Another eight spellings start out with the name ‘Umar, spelled Omar on this list every time. The Wikipedia page does not list this as part of his name, so I don’t know where that came from. Could be a mistake, could be he dropped it from his name at some point.

Back to the 79 names that start with Mu’ammar. Every one agrees that it starts with an ‘m.’ That’s good. The next consonant of his name in Arabic, though, represents a sound that doesn’t exist in English. It’s often transliterated with an apostrophe between two vowels. Then there’s the question of whether the first vowel sound should be represented by an ‘o’ or a ‘u’, just like the initial vowel of Osama bin Laden’s name. A universal system for transliterating Arabic to English would come in handy at times like these. So far we have مع

Once we pass that stage, we’re back on solid ground again with another ‘m’ sound. There is no disagreement on that. However, in some versions the letter is single and in some versions the letter is double. In Arabic, this makes a difference. In English, we pretty much ignore the distinction. Now we have معم

And then the last syllable. Obviously, it’s an ‘ar’ sound. I guess to some people it sounds like ‘er’ and to some people it must even sound like ‘a’, as they have left off the ‘r’ entirely. I would strike that one from the list, because that’s just lame. And there’s his whole first name, معمر

Now on to his last name. First thing is do we use the al- prefix or not? And if we use it, do we capitalize it? Apparently the colonel’s own preference is to omit it. Also, is it al- or el-?

Next is the first initial of his last name. It is a ق and would usually be rendered ‘Q’, except that in certain dialects that letter is pronounced ‘G’ instead. Libyan dialect is one of them. So it stands to reason that people conversant in Libyan dialect would render it with a ‘G’ while those not aware of that difference would render it with a ‘Q’.

Apparently some parties chose to render that sound with a ‘Kh.’ I do not know why. To the best of my knowledge, there is no dialect that pronounces that letter that way. I’m going to guess that that transliteration comes directly from people who think that since ‘kh’ is a sound in Arabic, ‘kh’ is every guttural sound in Arabic. They are wrong. I’ve already moaned about people who think that since ‘kh’ is a sound in Arabic, that all ‘h’s should be ‘kh’s. They’re wrong.

Good heavens, some of these spellings are atrocious. Kadafi with a K? No way.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the vowel should be an ‘a.’ Yay. So we’re up to معمر ق

This is tiring. Okay, next letter is another letter we don’t have in English, but we have the sound. It is the sound of the ‘th’ in the word ‘the’. As you can see, there are a few different ways to represent it, including ‘th’, ‘dh’, ‘d’, and ‘z’. And the issue of doubling consonants raises its head again. English speakers seem to think ‘dhdh’ looks weird. Okay, now we’re mostly done. معمر قذ

Everyone seems to agree that the next vowel is an ‘a’. Thank goodness. At least one weirdo stuck an apostrophe in there for no apparent reason. People are strange. This time the vowel is what we call a ‘long vowel’ and therefore you can see it. Here it is: قذا

Two more letters to go. A regular old ‘f’ sound is next. It looks like everyone went with ‘f’ and not ‘ph’, but they could have gone there. That would have doubled the number of possible spellings. I kind of wonder why nobody did. معمر القذاف

One letter remains, and this is an easy one. The long vowel ‘ee’, which most people rendered ‘i’ but a few rendered ‘y’, and once again they could have multiplied the number of spellings by rendering it with an ‘ee’ or an ‘ie’.

And there it is, the whole name: معمر قذافي


Filed under arabic, names

Spelling Arabic Words in English

I want to clear up some confusion. While Arabic words and names may be spelled many different ways in English, they are only spelled one way in Arabic. Arabic doesn’t have any confusion or ambiguity when it comes to spelling.

So while the US Library of Congress supposedly has twenty-three ways to spell the name of the president of Libya, in Arabic his name is spelled one way and every Arabic speaker knows how to spell it without any confusion. It’s معمر القذافي

And the reason I bring this up is because I occasionally see someone on a message board or a blog get overly creative with transliterating an Arabic word.

For example: Irak. You can’t interchange a ‘k’ and ‘q.’ Different letters, different words. Knock it off. Unless you’re speaking German, in which case, that’s okay.

Another example I saw recently: taqfir. Come on now, what the hell is that? You can not interchange and ‘k’ and a ‘q’!

Q in English represents this Arabic letter: ق

K in English represents this Arabic letter: ك

You change the letter, you change the word. Barking is not the same as parking. Sleep is not the same as sleet.

Wow, this site says there are 87 different official spellings of the president of Libya’s name.


Filed under arabic, language, pedantry

The Road to World Cup Soccer

Aw man, Iraq lost to Qatar 2-0. Nothing against Qatar, but Iraq has all my sympathy lately. Iraq will face Australia in early June.

Also yesterday, Bahrain beat Japan 1-0, much to the surprise and consternation of Japan’s coach.

Kuwait tied Iran 2-2, Oman beat Thailand 1-0.

Someone will have to remind me how these qualifying matches work, because I don’t remember. Go, Iraq soccer!

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabian, iraq soccer

Democracy or Theocracy

In the Washington Post online newspaper today, under the heading politics, was the headline McCain’s Pastor a Sharp Contrast to Obama’s.

There was also a heading for religion. One almost might think that, in a country based on laws rather than scripture, the article about the candidates’ clergy would go in the religion section and not the politics one.

Leave a comment

Filed under off-topic

American Pie 2

So there I was lackadaisically watching parts of American Pie 2 on TV, and Chris Klein’s character is on the phone with Mena Suvari’s character, and for some stupid reason when he hears that he has a call waiting he answers it instead of ignoring it, and some guy speaks Iraqi to him! I can’t remember now what exactly he said, but I believe it included the line, “Shlonak, habibi?”!
What are the odds?

Leave a comment

Filed under arabic, movies and shows

You Know What a Lot of People Would Call That?

Okay, I hadn’t paid much attention to the phenomenon until recently, but here’s another piece of evidence that it’s true that the US media will not call you a terrorist unless you’re Arab or at least Muslim.

Here’s today’s NY Times story Car Bomb Explodes in Spain.

No lie, there is no permutation of the word terror in this article about an explosion that injured a police officer.

There’s little doubt about the perpetrators since the ETA, described here as a Basque separatist group, called and warned about it in advance.

The article does bother to mention this:

ETA has killed more than 800 people since the late 1960s in its battle to create an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

That’s a not-insignificant number of dead people. Wikipedia includes the information that they’ve also committed dozens of kidnappings. I think the important thing to remember here is that ETA is not Arab or Muslim. I guess. I’m pretty sure if an Arab organization had bombed a populated area where Christians congregate on Easter weekend, the word terror would appear in the newspaper article.

ETA is not new. Wikipedia:

From 1968 to December 2007 ETA has killed 821 people[dubious – discuss][2] and committed dozens of kidnappings. ETA is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by both the Spanish and French[3] authorities as well as the European Union as a whole,[4] the United States, and the United Nations. More than 500 members of the organization are incarcerated in prisons in Spain, France and other countries[5].

Bolding mine.

I’m not sophisticated enough with blogging yet to know how to do a poll, and I’m not sure WordPress supports them anyway, but I would like to know if you think the word terror, terrorist, or terrorism should have been included in the article.

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, arabist, domestic terrorism, Islamic relations

Sound Advice

Philippines Government health officials are warning the devoutly religious

to get tetanus vaccinations before they flagellate themselves and are nailed to crosses, and to practise good hygiene.

Those crazy Muslim self-mutilators. Oh, I mean Christian.

The health department has strongly advised penitents to check the condition of the whips they plan to use to lash their backs, the Manila Times newspaper reports.
They want people to have what they call “well-maintained” whips.

And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first. Often people soak the nails in alcohol throughout the year.

Leave a comment

Filed under miscellaneous

Quiz Show Question

I was flipping through channels and hit on a rerun of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. I don’t watch the show because the slow pacing and fake suspense drives me insane, but since I had lucked into landing on the channel at the exact moment that the question had been asked and the four choices were already up on the screen, I watched. The question was (I may be paraphrasing): In early 2000 a mall opened in the UAE that had this unusual feature.

Now I digress and point you to this article, about how the wisdom of crowds usually beats the pants of the wisdom of the individual. In Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the crowd picks the right answer 90 percent of the time.

If, years hence, people remember anything about the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” they will probably remember the contestants’ panicked phone calls to friends and relatives[… ]What people probably won’t remember is that every week “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” pitted group intelligence against individual intelligence, and that every week, group intelligence won.

Those random crowds of people with nothing better to do on a weekday afternoon than sit in a TV studio picked the right answer 91 percent of the time.

Back to today’s rerun of WWtbaM. The four possible answers to the above question were:
a- No men
b- No women
c- No children
d- No lights

You already know, don’t you?

The contestant had no idea. So he asked the audience. I don’t watch the show a lot, but ordinarily when they ask the audience there’s one clear winner, but sometimes there are two answers that are pretty close. But in this case all four answers got a fair number of votes. I don’t remember the percentages, but b- no women got more answers than the other three options.

The contestant, who seemed to be familiar with the concept that the audience is usually right, went with the audiences choice.

D’oh! No, the answer was a- no men.

Leave a comment

Filed under arab, miscellaneous, movies and shows

Arab Martial Arts Champion

Meet Maitha bint-Mohammed, Olympic athlete from the United Arab Emirates. She was just voted Best Female Arab Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row.

For some reason she doesn’t have her own Wikipedia entry, and is listed on her dad’s page. He’s the prime minister of the UAE. Apparently the whole family is big on charitable giving as well as athleticism. Cool.


Good luck to her.

This post is about an accomplished athlete, but here’s a bonus pretty-woman photo of Haya Bint al-Hussein*, the half-sister of King Abdullah of Jordan and now the wife of Maitha’s father, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.


I don’t want to encourage the wrong element here, but if you’re an aficionado of lovely women (Hi dad!), go ahead and do a search on Queen Rania of Jordan or Asma al-Assad (wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad).

And not particularly germane, but this funny blurb was on the Wikipedia page:

On 9 March 2007, the Metro (Associated Metro Limited) newspaper wrongly published a picture of Sheikh Mohammed attributing it to the terror suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The Metro has since apologised for the error.[11]

They illustrated an article about an accused terrorist with a photo of the prime minister of the UAE! Still, it seems less jarring than that article I saw that labeled a photo of Wesley Snipes as Sean Connery.

*By the way, Haya is also an Olympics athlete. Wikipedia says:

Princess Haya is an avid sportswoman. She participated in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney Australia representing Jordan in show jumping, where she was also the flag bearer for the Jordanian delegation, and regularly takes part in equestrian events. She has been elected as president of the International Equestrian Federation for a standard four year term ending in 2010[1]. Princess Haya was also selected as a member of the international athletes commission at the International Olympic Committee.

Okay, now I can’t stop. Here’s Madiya bint Mohammed Bin Hasher Al Maktoum, one more royal, Arab, female athlete. Madiya is into endurance horse racing.



Filed under arab, arabian, arabist