Putting a Name on the Face? The Gaddafi Spelling Challenge

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GADDAFI-REUTERS.jpgThink tanks in Washington scramble and compete with each other to influence the policy debate on a variety of fronts -- but what is desperately needed is for one of them to put forward a white paper on how to spell Moammer Gaddafi's name. 

This is not a trivial matter. President Obama's national security and foreign policy legacy will be inextricably tied to the action against Libya's late long-serving dictator, and the history books and blogs need a better guide than we have today on how to get the Libyan boss' name right.

Many have struggled with this.  This work by Danny Sullivan does a masterful job of drawing together many of the Gaddafi/Qaddafi/Libyan bad guy options.  While this spelling struggle isn't new -- but it has bothered me that my own colleagues at The Atlantic have a variety of names for him.

The Atlantic's International Channel editor Max Fisher uses "Qaddafi."  I use "Gaddafi" -- but flip to the Q on occasion, usually when I'm having a more festive day.  Atlantic writers have also used "Khaddafi", "Khadafy", and "Quadhafi".

I wonder if Moammer (and yes, there's a spelling dispute with the first name also) used to google his different names to see what got the most hits. 

If he had, here are the google mentions of a few of the myriad possibilities:

Khaddafy  409,000
Gaddafi  84,900,000
Khaddafi 4,900,000
Qaddafi 8,400,000
Gadhafi 15,900,000
Quadhafi 11,400

I can't find a version of the name with more hits that "Gaddafi", which is what I use -- so at least in my editorial and New America Foundation hats, I propose that we go with what the market tells us and use GADDAFI.

As Danny Sullivan reports from a Library of Congress survey, there are a lot more possibilities:

(1) Muammar Qaddafi, (2) Mo'ammar Gadhafi, (3) Muammar Kaddafi, (4) Muammar Qadhafi, (5) Moammar El Kadhafi, (6) Muammar Gadafi, (7) Mu'ammar al-Qadafi, (8) Moamer El Kazzafi, (9) Moamar al-Gaddafi, (10) Mu'ammar Al Qathafi, (11) Muammar Al Qathafi, (12) Mo'ammar el-Gadhafi, (13) Moamar El Kadhafi, (14) Muammar al-Qadhafi, (15) Mu'ammar al-Qadhdhafi, (16) Mu'ammar Qadafi, (17) Moamar Gaddafi, (18) Mu'ammar Qadhdhafi, (19) Muammar Khaddafi, (20) Muammar al-Khaddafi, (21) Mu'amar al-Kadafi, (22) Muammar Ghaddafy, (23) Muammar Ghadafi, (24) Muammar Ghaddafi, (25) Muamar Kaddafi, (26) Muammar Quathafi, (27) Muammar Gheddafi, (28) Muamar Al-Kaddafi, (29) Moammar Khadafy, (30) Moammar Qudhafi, (31) Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi, (32) Mulazim Awwal Mu'ammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Qadhaf

Gaddafi is way easier.  Takers?

photo credit: ReutersGathafi.

Update:  My colleague Max Fisher had a terrific post, up a while back but that I had not seen, on Gaddafi's passport application and the spelling there: 

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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