How Do You Spell ‘Mossadegh’?

Let Us Count the Ways...

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | March 23, 2023                         

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967), Prime Minister of Iran 1951-1953 When The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial devoted exclusively to the spelling of Dr. Mossadegh’s name, it set off a mini-debate in their letters section. And after everyone had weighed in on the matter, nothing was solved, but the irony was excruciating.

Although the Chronicle used the proper spelling (Mossadegh) in their newspaper as well as the editorial in question, they guesstimated that there was no one true spelling — making all versions equally ‘correct’.

Yet a letter to the editor from a Palestinian woman claimed the Chronicle was all wrong, that the real spelling was “Musaadig”. Her letter contained its own wrongly spelled bits, even ‘misspelling’ ⅔ of the name variations mentioned in the editorial by turning their q’s into g’s. The Chronicle, in turn, misspelled her name, too.

Then an Iranian-born rug dealer of Assyrian extraction wrote in with his own answer, which he was absolutely “certain” the Premier himself preferred — “Mussadiq”. On the other hand, he insisted, if the Premier saw his name spelled “Mossadegh”, he would plotz! [Yiddish]

The confusion remains to this day, yet there shouldn’t be any mystery about the accurate, genuine, bona fide spelling of Mohammad Mossadegh’s name.

It’s the transliteration he’d selected and used for decades: “Mossadegh”.

August 2, 1952
The San Francisco Chronicle

‘Mossadegh’ Is Hard To Misspell

MANY PERSONS experience frustration when they encounter in their reading the varied current versions of the name of the weeping Iranian Premier. Their confusion is legitimate; a glance at some highly regarded journals on the desk discloses Mossadegh, Musaddiq and Mossadeq.

Which is the right spelling?

The fact is that any one of these versions is as right as any other. There’s a story of a proofreader sending a manuscript back to Lawrence of Arabia with a complaint that the author had spelled Hejaz, the name of the district of which Mecca is the chief city, three different ways. “Which is right?” he asked. Replied Lawrence: “All are right and I can give you 40 other spellings of it, all equally right.”

We have illustrated here the difficulty of rendering into English letters names and words from languages like Arabic and Russian which have alphabets differing markedly from ours. Many of the Arabic letters have no precise equivalents in the Roman alphabet; the same is true with the Russian. [Did they think Iranians were Arabs?]

The best we can do with Russian and Arabic names is to represent them phonetically. As in many cases, either one of several English letters or groups of letters will serve as well as another we get varied results. [sic] For example, in Russian letters there is only one right way to spell the name of composer Tschaikovsky but in letters of our alphabet it can be spelled twelve different ways, any one as right as another. They are all equally phonetic renderings of the Russian. In such a case all one can do is to adopt one generally used form and stick to it.

August 8, 1952
Letters To The Editor’s Mailbox


Editor—Re editorial under the heading of “Mossadegh is hard to Misspell.” Contrary to Laurence of Arabia, [sic] a foreigner to Arabic, whom you quoted as saying, “All spellings are right.” Allow me to say that your spellings Mossadegh, Musaddig, Mossadeg, are all wrong. [Misspelled the misspellings!]

Your first and third are totally wrong because the vowels o and e do not appear in the Arabic alphabet. [Persian not Arabic!]

The Arabic word means “friendly” and the proper spelling is Musaadig.

As to your second way of spelling, it gives the man a totally different name meaning “believer”.

T. EZEIBAK. [misspelled!]
San Francisco.

[Hilda T. Zeibak (1913-2002)]

August 13, 1952
Letters To The Editor’s Mailbox


Editor—Re your editorial of August 2, 1952 “Mossadegh is Hard to Misspell,” and the letter to the editor of August 8, 1952.

Every time His Excellency, the Premier of Iran, sees his name in print spelled “Mossadegh,” doubtless he sighs and weeps bitterly. For there is a vast difference in meaning when spelled “Mossadegh” versus “Mussadiq” (accent on the last syllable) which is the correct way of spelling.

A Persian translation of the the name “Mossadegh,”especially when pronounced by many on the air, means the mount of Moses. To my knowledge there is no such mountain in Iran. Whereas, “Mussadiq,” in Persian means—tried, proven, and that is the correct way. I am certain His Excellency would prefer it that way.

San Francisco.

[Luther Timothy Ebrahim (1904-1986)]

Vernon Walters Amuses Crowd With Mossadegh Stories


Related links:

Iranian Youth: “Iran is friendly with the West” (1951 Letter to the Editor)

Robert Gulick, Jr.: In Defense of Iran | Washington Star, July 1951 Letter

TIME Readers Irate Over Mossadegh’s “Man of the Year” Title (Jan. 1952)

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

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram