You Say Qazzafi & I Say Khadthdthaffi

I asked who decides these things. AP explains.
His name’s first letter is the Qaf, representing a sound that does not exist in English. It’s sort of like a K but sounded from the back of the palate. (And no, it’s NOT the rough “kh” or German “ch” sound — that’s yet a different letter.)

Usually this letter is transliterated with a Q, as in Quran and Qatar and Iraq. An outdated but still seen transliteration is K, as in Koran.

However, the letter is pronounced differently in different Arabic dialects. In Libya, it’s often pronounced as a G, so that’s the letter the AP and some others use.

The next letter is the Dhal. Its sound exists in English, but not as one letter: In formal Arabic, the Dhal is pronounced like the soft “th” in “then” or “those.” It’s often transliterated as “dh,” to distinguish it from a separate letter that’s pronounced like the ”th” in “thick” or “thorn” or “throw.”

In dialect, the Dhal is often pronounced by Libyans and other Arabs as either a D or a Z — much like in English dialects where you might say “doze guys.” Thus some agencies spell Gadhafi’s name with a D or Z in the middle.

To complicate matters, the middle dhal in Gadhafi’s name is doubled – in other words, you draw it out some in pronunciation. That’s why you see Qazzafi, or Qaddafi, or the more bizarre looking Qadhdhafi or Qaththafi.

The third letter is a Fa, which is simply an F. In some spellings of Gadhafi’s name, you’ll see it doubled ‘ff’ but there’s no reason to do that, and it may just be a snarky way to slip ‘daffy’ into the eccentric Libyan leader’s name.

The last letter is a Yaa, which is simply an “ee” sound, as in “tree.” That’s why you see either a Y or an I.
Why do they rest on "Gadhafi"? Because that's how he spelled it in a letter to American school kids.