Until ten days or so ago, the only person with the name Khashoggi who was well-known was the rather dodgy Saudi Arabian businessman, Adnan Khashoggi, who according to Wikipedia was the brother of Mohamed Al-Fayed’s wife, and so uncle to Dodi Fayed who died with Diana Princess of Wales. So far as I can remember, his family name was always pronounced with the final to syllables rhyming with “doggy”.
Now, the tragic events surrounding the death of the journalist Jemal Khashoggi have brought the name to prominence again. What is surprising me is that not only are the BBC Radio newsreaders, almost without exception, pronouncing this ‘-shog-ji’, but so are all the BBC presenters and journalists, both Radio and TV, with one notable exception. This can only be because a directive has come down from on high. Newsreaders are very good at following the recommendations of the Pronunciation Unit, so this is not unexpected, even though I understand that the 1974 ruling that staff newsreaders and announcers must follow those recommendations has now been loosened to a merely advisory situation, but for all the journalists (with one exception) to follow suit can only be because the Controller of Editorial Policy has issued an edict. The one exception is not really surprising – it is Edward Stourton, who doggedly stuck to ‘-oggi’ throughout the World at One on Radio 4, despite his colleagues’ usage. I say this is not surprising, because, as I have mentioned here before, in the 1990s, we used to send to the newsreader at Television Centre a list of names in the bulletin at one o’clock, with our recommendations, and he had someone ring us up to say that he didn’t need them “as he was a linguist himself”. So he speaks, or can at least pronounce, every language in the world, can he? For someone with such an unusual pronunciation as he has (‘sturton’, not ‘stowerton’ or ‘storton’) ought to be aware of the pitfalls that can arise through ignorance of the special circumstance.
I thought that the difference between Adnan amd Jemal’s pronunciation might be that Adnan was Egyptian, in which case, the -g- pronunciation could be expected (cf Gamal – not Jemal – Abdul Nasser, for example), but Wikipedia is clear that he was a Saudi, so the two names should be pronounced alike. Perhaps in the 1980s, we were misinformed, especially given Adnan’s connexion to the Fayed family.
The BBC Director of Editorial Policy could do with issuing more edicts like this!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, as it has been a major annoyance to me in the past few days. In fact Adnan and Jamal were cousins, so the pronunciation would be the same. A friend worked for Adnan back when he was the richest man in the world (as a steward on his notoriously lavish private jet). He always pronounced it with the -oggi rhyming with Yogi (as in the bear).

    Some have even been adding another vowel, calling him ku-sho-guh-gee

  2. “Not Yogi” – Thank you very much for bringing this extra information to our attention. As your friend pronounced the ending to rhyme with ‘Yogi’ rather than ‘doggy’ as I suggested, is it fair to assume that he spoke American English, not British English?

  3. It’s driving me crazy … The poor man was physically descrated in death and now the news readers and commentators are desecrating his name … the one thing that belonged only to him. Such a simple name to pronounce, but white people can never get a non white name correct. How difficult is it to pronounce KHA-SHO-GGI??

  4. Lily – I don’t know what ethnicity you belong to, or how you justify your claim that the name is being mispronounced, but the evidence appears to be in favour of the pronunciation that the newsreaders are using: that the second -g- is pronounced approximately as in English “George”, rather than in English “Gilbert”. There are many dialects of Arabic, and the pronunciation of them also varies greatly, so what is correct in one part of the Arabic-speaking world would not be normal in another part. I assume that the commentators/newsreaders, etc. are trying to approximate a Saudi dialect rather than, say, an Egyptian one. I do not believe that there is any reason to attribute it to any kind of ‘white’ conspiracy.

  5. Just look at the Arabic writing. It’s خاشقجي (kha-alif-shin-qaf-jim-ya). So the pronounciation should be Khashuqji.

  6. To the true Yogi.
    Just look at the Thai writing. It’s สกลนคร (so-ko-lo-no-kho-ro). So the pronunciation should be Sklnkhr. (And lord only knows where you put the tones on that.)
    Er, no. It’s [sā.kōn ná(ʔ).kʰɔ̄ːn], or by the Royal Thai General System of Transcription, Sakon Nakhon, and you will already have spotted that their wonky system transcribes both /ō/ and /ɔ̄/ (and their short equivalents) in the same way.

  7. khaa-sh-q(u)j-ii خاشقجي

    kh is a rasping sound, ‘q’ is a deep-throated variant of ‘k’ (somewhat like a g)

  8. Bjorn – ‘q’ is used precisely because it is different from both a ‘k’ and a ‘g’: the two latter are both produced by the back of the tongue touching the back of the hard palate, while ‘q’ involves the uvula instead of the hard palate. In addition, there is no voicing involved in ‘q’, which is the difference between ‘k’ (voiceless) and ‘g’ (voiced). The technical name for a ‘rasping’ sound, as you describe it, is a fricative, in this case a velar fricative, produced in the same position as ‘k’ and ‘g’, and voiceless (similar to the ‘achlaut’ of German (usually spelled ‘ch’ e.g. machen) or the sound spelled ‘ch’ in many Scottish words, such as ‘loch’, which causes such problems to non-Scottish English speakers, to the annoyance of Scots.

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