27 AUGUST 1983, Page 16

Arabic noises

Sir: I sympathise with Simon Courtauld over the spelling of the Libyan leader (Notebook, 20 August). It is true that the initial consonants of the Libyan and Iranian leaders are 'uttered from the back of the throat', but though both are gutturals they do have distinct sounds. The 'Kh' of Khomeini is the letter `Kha' whose nearest sound in a European language is the 'eh' in the Scottish 'loch' or the German `hoch'. The initial consonant of the Libyan leader is the letter `Qaf' which is normallY represented in English by a 'q' and is known as a voiceless stop — the back of the tongue is clicked against the back palate (I don't recommend that you try it in public!). In some Arab countries it is sounded like a g', hence the spelling 'Gaddafi'.

Incidentally, and for what it is worth, the English-language propaganda which pours through my letterbox, unsolicited, from the Libyan People's Bureau in London spells the gentleman `Qadhafi', so presumably this is the acceptable form!

Leonard Coverley Carlisle Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex