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.

  9. Well, in fact Adnan’s family, and Jamal’s too, obviously, came from Turkey. So, one might argue the following:
    1. Pronounce as per Saudi, as that’s where they grew up
    2. Pronounce as per Turkey, as that’s their origin
    3. Pronounce the way they actually did – which is what I’m going with!

    Kash-o-ghee (like the butter…)

  10. Alison – I assume you have evidence for knowing the way they pronounced their own name? I don’t recall ever having heard them say it themselves. Do you know the roman alphabet spelling the family used when they lived in Turkey? Or was that so long ago that it would have had only an Arabic alphabet spelling? The name doesn’t seem very Turkish to me – but that might be my ignorance. There is no [x] in Turkish, for instance.

  11. The point about desecration is well taken. However I can see how hard it is to keep the pronunciation of a famous name the same throughout the world when people have different frames of reference. But the mangling of the front of the name as the BBC reporters seem to uniformly do, seems inexcusable. How do you get a soft “h” sound out of “kh”? (I ask as a layperson with no linguistic expertise but a sense that this is wrong.)

  12. Paul – ‘kh’ is often used as a spelling for the sound that is spelled in German (and Scots English and Welsh) with ‘ch’. The symbol used for this sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet is [x], but I suspect that that would be even more difficult for what you admit to being – a ‘lay person’ – to accept. As the sound does not exist in most forms of the English spoken in England, there is no regular English spelling for it. It is the usual transcription for the sound of Russian that in Cyrillic is also spelled as ‘x’ – as in the name of the politician Nikita Khrushchev (Хрущёв), or the Soviet dissident from the 1980s, Andrei Sakharov (Сахаров).

  13. Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi (/kəˈʃoʊɡʒi, kəˈʃoʊɡi/; Arabic: جمال أحمد خاشقجي‎ jamāl ʾaḥmad ḵāšuqjī, Hejazi pronunciation: [d͡ʒaˈmaːl xaːˈʃoɡʒi], (Turkish: Cemal kaşıkçı)

    It appears that BBC is pronouncing the Hejazi dialect, or the western KSA version. However, they are simplifying the initial consonant /x/ to /k/ and simplifying the /q/ to /g/. In Arabic, the to GG are actually different consonants with different pronunciations, similar to GhJ in English. I’ve always heard -oggi like Yogi in the US. It seems to me that there can be no definitive answer unless we hear it from the family of this wronged man. It is getting on my nerves, lol, which is why I’m here. I’m open to being wrong, and, after having learned about the Hejazi pronunciation, I yield the possibility that the BBC reporters are pronouncing it correctly in that context, other than the two Arabic sounds that are difficult for an English speaker to articulate, namely /x/خ and /q/ق.

  14. Albert – I can’t speak for the BBC’s intentions in the pronunciation they are using, but when I was the Adviser, which is rather a long time ago now, I would certainly have advised against trying to reproduce the /q/, as being a sound totally foreign to all native English speakers. Arabic is always a minefield because of the wide variety of regional dialects. Should we try to reproduce the nearest English sounds to those in each of the dialects, or should we try to standardise in some way (which way?). The problem is almost as bad in Spanish, where apart from the differences between Andalusian and Castillian Spanish, there are all the different dialects heard in the Americas. The range of sounds used for what is spelt ‘ll’, for instance, is very great, and overlaps with those used for the spelling ‘y’ when this letter represents a consonant. Even ‘s’ can be pronounced in many different ways.

  15. Late to the party, I know, but there was a time when Mrs Khashoggi (mistress of various noteworthy people that I won’t name) was at least as famous as all the others put together (mistress of various noteworthy people that I won’t name).

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