Mysteries Solved: Gaddafi’s Passport Suggests An Unusual Spelling Of His Name

Muammar Gaddafi‘s personal effects have begun to flow from his besieged palace, and so far they have been fabulous, curious, and generally befitting of a man with Gaddafi’s mystique. Today’s haul, however, brings something that might actually be useful.

Someone found the Libyan leader’s diplomatic passport, and in it we find that his preferred spelling is an uncommon one: Gathafi.

Gaddafi has long refused to speak anything but Arabic, leaving it up to individual publications to chose their own translation; Qaddafi, Gaddafi, Kadafi, and Khadafy all becoming commonly accepted renderings. Gathafi hardly registers on a google trends graph of the last year. The Atlantic‘s Max Fisher points us to an old story that found 112 different ways to translate the name from Arabic to English, and according to that list, Gathafi is the least common. This is, perhaps, no surprise given the man’s tendency towards the individual.

Copy editors world-wide will spend the rest of the morning scratching their heads, unsure of how to accommodate this new news into their style guides. Old habits die hard in the copy room, and it seems likely that just as Fisher suggests they have done at The Atlantic, most will stick to their old spelling in favor of consistency.

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