Misspellings September 18, 2001 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Misspellings. Not just on metafilter, but throughout the net, I've seen the words "Taliban," "Taleban," and "Talebin" used to describe the majority rulers of Afghanistan. I've also seen "Bin Laden," "Bin Ladin," and "Ben Laden," as well as both "Osama" and "Usama" to describe the alleged terrorist mastermind. Have you noticed any others? Which is the right spellings for either, by the way?
posted by moz to General Weblog-Related at 10:15 AM (9 comments total)

They are all phonetic just like Koran and Qu'ran. Sanskrit (?) does no use the Roman alphabet, and hence there really is no right spelling en englais...
posted by fooljay at 10:34 AM on September 18, 2001

posted by jpoulos at 11:14 AM on September 18, 2001

Both Dari (an Afghan version of Persian, or Farsi, as spoken in Iran) and Pashto, which together are the two main Afghan languages, use an Arabic-style alphabet.

It's like asking, "Which is correct, 'Peking' or 'Beijing'?" The Chinese didn't change the name of the city, we just changed the way we transliterate it into the Latin alphabet.

Here is a list of over 30 languages spoken in Afghanistan. Here is another page about the main Afghan languages, with links to images of the alphabets for both Dari and Pashto.
posted by kindall at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2001

They are all phonetic spellings of Arabic words. Taleban or Taliban is ok but Talebin is not. Taleb means student and it is pluralised by adding "AN" (a symbol consisting two slashes, like //, above the last alphabet.)

Both Osama and Usama are correct. I have never seen how bin-Laden spells his last name. So I can't say if Laden/Ladin are both acceptable or not. But phonetically they are pretty close. The word "Bin" means "son of." The name Osama bin-Laden means: Osama, the son of Laden. In that sense, all his siblings are all "bin-Laden" as well.

Very similar to the 32 phonetic spellings of Ghaddaffi.

posted by tamim at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2001

Are they strictly sound-based, or do they actually follow a system? I'm asking with Japanese in mind, for which I know there are two(that I'm aware of) accepted systems for anglicising the language, rather than just using random phonetics.
posted by Su at 3:50 PM on September 18, 2001

(Disclaimer: I really don't know much Arabic at all, but the following should be interesting to anyone following this thread.)
  1. Transliteration of Arabic names and words. In terms of grammar and writing, Arabic has only three vowels, which can be long or short: a, i, u. But in different words, or in different dialects, they can be pronounced with different colors, i.e. i/e or u/o. I saw a news photo from Pakistan with the spelling "jehad," and I've noticed (cf. the common "Taleban") that South/Central Asian usages of Arabic tend to prefer e for i. But I don't think "bin Laden" is an example of this putative trend, since the man is of Saudi birth (and Arabian heritage, right?). Here's a useful comment from T.E. Lawrence's Preface to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which includes an amusing sampling of questions from his editor with his responses.
    "...Arabic names won't go into English, exactly, for their consonants are not the same as ours, and their vowels, like ours, vary from district to district. There are some 'scientific systems' of transliteration, helpful to people who know enough Arabic not to need helping, but a wash-out for the world. I spell my names anyhow to show what rot the systems are... Q. Nuri, Emir of the Ruwalla, belongs to the 'chief family of the Rualla'. On Slip 23 'Rualla horse', and Slip 38, 'killed one Rueli'. In all later slips 'Rualla'. A. Should have also used Ruwala and Ruala.
    Another example is el Mayin, el Main, el Mayein, el Muein, el Mayin, and el Muyein.
  2. Meaning of "bin Laden." While it is correct that "bin/ibn" means "son of" and can be followed by the name of one's father, this seems not to be the case with bin Laden. Note this NYT article which informs us that his father was "Muhammad bin Laden" and his grandfather was "Abdullah bin Laden." I know that terms like "bin" (literally denoting kinship) can be used metaphorically in forenames, e.g. Abu al Khayr, meaning not "father of al khayr" but "one who does good" (Ar. khayr="good thing, blessing, wealth"). Clearly "bin Laden" means something, but it is hard for me to tell what. Is anyone here enough of an Arabist to say? I have seen one book that employs a careful transliteration scheme refer to the terrorist as bin Ladin (with long a indicated by a macron). But my Arabic dictionary says this word means "laudanum," which I doubt is relevant; as Ladin does not seem to be an Arabic forename or meaningful-in-this-context common noun, perhaps it is some ancient place name or other kind of reference.

posted by Zurishaddai at 4:13 PM on September 22, 2001

Zuris: His full name is actually Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden. The entire clan uses the bin Laden name, and in fact owns the binladen.com domain. There they transliterate it as Binladin (Saudi Binladin Group).
posted by dhartung at 1:12 AM on September 23, 2001

Darn, Zurishaddai, you beat me to the Lawrence quotes.
She was a noble beast.
posted by Catch at 4:21 PM on September 23, 2001

Osama Ladenson?
posted by fidelity at 9:55 PM on September 23, 2001

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