A dictator by any other name would smell…

It is so rare that I feel sympathy for a ruthless, power-hungry dictator, but the sheer incompetence of our news agencies as a whole has made me sit back with a tiny corner of a tissue and shed a tear for the current leader of Libya.

No one knows how to spell this man’s name. The rabid misspelling of his name all over the news and the internet are probably keeping him up at night, which is actually really funny. It’s like the frustrated evil mastermind from the cartoons who never gets the credit for his well planned misdeeds. Sadly, this is the same leader whom President Reagan squared off with when I was a kid and so when the protests began recently I was kind of shocked to realize this isn’t that guy’s son. That’s probably bugging him, as well.

But in all seriousness, don’t we have anyone who knows how to spell Gadhafi? Or Kaddafi? Or Khadafhi? And can we please come to a consensus on whether his first name is Momar or Muammar? All of the major news networks employ dialect coaches (c’mon, did you really think Christiane Amanpour naturally sounds that sexy and exotic? They work with her, you know), people whose only job is to teach cute blond reporters how to pronounce “Azerbaijan” in case of an earthquake, so surely someone can spell this man’s name once and for all. Do we not have any journalists or government agents in the vicinity of Tripoli who can at least read and translate what is written on all those protest signs? Will the history books remember the day in 2011 when the oppressed citizens of Libya rose up against “That Guy?”

I am probably more sensitive to this issue than most people. My parents—god and their children love them—came up with the absolute weirdest children’s names of all time. I would love to be able to call you all personally and tell you this part is a joke, but my sister and I have four middle names each; that’s not the doozy…we both have one of the same middle names, as if my parents forgot they had already used that one. Then throw the last names I’ve had to contend with in there and I was doomed. I tried so hard to meet and marry a man named Smith but it just didn’t happen, at least not after the restraining order went into effect.

I met my non-Smith-named husband in college and we later moved to his hometown. For months after arriving here I had to answer the same idiotic question: “Are you related to Noah?” Never a last name, just Noah. Like I’m supposed to know they mean Noah-the-Possible-Relative, not Noah-of-the-Ark. I finally asked my mother-in-law, who replied, “Yes, but he’s on the crazy side of the family.” And that’s only horrible because you know those people are saying that about my side of the family.

One of the things I face as a high school teacher is students, mostly girls, who have it all planned out. They’re going to have a baby next year, name it such-and-such, get its eyebrows pierced in the delivery room, and dye its hair green or something. Yes, these are children who desperately need a puppy, but that’s beside the point. One of the worst instances of playing, “I Can See My Future From Here,” was the young girl who told us in a dreamy, faraway kind of voice that she and her boyfriend were going to have a little girl and she was going to name it Neveah because that’s heaven spelled backwards. My first thought was, “Why can’t you just name her heaven spelled forwards?” But my next out-loud comment, worried for this unborn child’s sanity, was, “You can’t do that to her. Nivea is a line of skin care products.” No amount of begging from her elderly English teacher could persuade this girl not to lasso her baby with such a dumb name. Finally, the student next to her burst into laughter: “If you have twins, you could name the other baby ProActiv!” Maybe that convinced her, I don’t know.

For all that I hope democracy wins out in the Middle East and the voice of the people is finally heard, I truly hope that Gaddafi/Kadafi/Kahadaphahi is remembered accurately for all time for the monstrous people-crusher that he is. And that we write it down correctly.

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