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I suspect I’m not the only person who had never heard of this place in Libya until yesterday. My suspicion is more-or-less confirmed by the inability of the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John SImpson, to make his mind up over it. In his report to the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning (Wednesday 2 March 2011), he pronounced alternately /ædʒdəˈbiːə/ and /ædʒdəˈbaɪə/.

I was wondering if the local pronunciation was what was causing his problem – a vowel quality something like /əi/ for instance? – when Harriet Cass, reading the news bulletins through the programme, called it /ædʒˈdebiə/. The Columbia-Lippincott Gazetteer of the World – now sadly fifty years old – gives the Italian spelling Agedabia, with stress on the -da- (transcribed as äjĕdä´byä). Allowing for the need of Italians for a vowel to be inserted in order to pronounced the /dʒ/, this corresponds well to Harriet’s version, so I think we can believe that Harriet is following the Pronunciation Unit’s advice (as she almost always does), and discount John’s uncertainty as simply lack of knowledge.

Never trust journalists’ pronunciation simply because they’re in the place they’re talking about!

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  1. Last night John Simpson had /ædʒəˈdɑːbiə/ once, and /ædʒədəˈbiːə/ twice in the same report. I suppose it’s a bit hard to remain totally focussed on what you’re saying when surrounded by people with guns amid large ammunition dumps with fighter jets overhead.

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