A Mossadegh by Any Other Name...

July 2, 1951 — The Manchester Guardian

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | October 9, 2023                         

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967), Prime Minister of Iran 1951-1953 Though Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh spelled his name in English thusly and always had, there were (and still are), a wide array of confusing, incorrect spelling variations.

Like many other publications, The Manchester Guardian newspaper in Great Britain had been using “Mossadeq”. Yet they were feeling uncertain about this policy, and in a July 2, 1951 editorial, announced that going forward, they would be misspelling it more badly.

Musaddiq, they reasoned, was the most intelligent option, never thinking to consult the source himself, or his representatives, for a straight answer. In fact, they figured they were doing Mossadegh a favor!

With a “V” or a “W”?

The present Prime Minister of Persia is difficult at all points; even his name is difficult to spell. For this particular awkwardness he has, of course, little personal responsibility. Persian, like other languages which do not use our alphabet, has to be transliterated, and this causes endless disputes about phonetics. Some scholars, in the effort to bring a waft of the exotic and of the roses of Shiraz to the printing press, like to leave out the vowels and sprinkle their page with dots and diareses in unexpected places. How, then, do you spell our present gadfly? Mr. Weller’s is the only rule: “It depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller.” But a correspondent complains that the taste and fancy of the press has roamed really too widely. He lists the following usages. The “Economist,” the “New York Times,” and the “New York Herald Tribune” say Mossadegh; the “Scotsman” elongates him to Moussadegh; the “Times,” Moussadek; the “News Chronicle,” Mossadiq; the “Daily Express,” Mossadeg; the “News of the World,” Musaddeq; the “Financial Times,” “Daily Mirror,” “Daily Telegraph,” “Daily Mail,” and, until to-day, ourselves, have had the short and businesslike form Mossadeq (fitting for a man who means business).

But on taking advice we learn that, for all this open-mindedness, not one of us has hit on the correct phonetic reproduction: the best students seem to agree that it should be Musaddiq, the style accepted by the Foreign Office. From to-day we shall try to refer to him only in this way. Some people become very annoyed when their names are misspelt; perhaps now that we are making amends Dr. Musaddiq will himself turn over a new leaf. As for his capital, our correspondent protests that we obstinately refer to it as Tehran while all other papers print Teheran. Here we are unrepentant. To be absolutely correct, we should in fact write Tihran; that would seem eccentric; and Tehran is a very fair compromise between the pedantic and the plain erroneous. [They never learn!]

• On August 2, 1951, The Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) reprinted this editorial with added paragraph breaks under the title PERSIAN SPELLING as part of their media column The Scrap Book compiled by Shelagh Nolan.

December 11, 1951
The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate

To-day’s Topics

Newspapers in England do not agree about the spelling of the name of the Persian Prime Minister. "The Times" of London says Moussadek; "Manchester Guardian, Musaddiq; "Daily Telegraph," Mossadeq; "News Chronicle," Mossadiq; and "Daily Express," Mossadeg. The New York "Herald Tribune" and the American magazine "Time" both call him Mossadegh. Most Australian newspapers agree on Mossadeq, but one Sydney newspaper has yet another variation — with Mussadiq. [The Sydney Morning Herald]

• This was the lead paragraph in a column in a newspaper based in New South Wales, Australia. Like nearly every other Australian publication, they preferred “Mossadeq”.

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Related links:

‘Mossadegh’ Is Hard To Misspell | San Francisco Chronicle, August 2, 1952

Stifling Heat, Hot Tempers Grip Abadan In Oil Impasse (July 15, 1951)

Mussadiq Digs In His Toes | Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 29, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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