Why do Americans spell "Ghandi" ?

It’s Gandhi.

So, how ?

Has nothing to do with being American – people who spell it that way just don’t know how it’s spelled.

“Americans” don’t spell his name that way, unless they don’t know the correct spelling.

For the record, yes, I have seen Gandhi’s name spelled incorrectly on these boards. Just look on this as an opportunity to dispel a little ignorance.

Just don’t ask any of us to spell “Nietzsche.”

[Austin Millbarge]
We know how to say “Sartre”.

I think it’s just an easy mistake to make because, the way we pronounce it, the “h” is superfluous. We say GON-DEE, not GOND-HEE. Whether right or wrong, we don’t hear any “h” sound when we hear the name, so it’s hard to remember where the “h” goes when we spell it. And unfortunately, the mistake feeds on itself, because the more you see it spelled incorrectly, the more you tend to believe it’s correct that way. Proper names are the hardest to get right, because neither spell-checkers nor dictionaries tend to have surnames in them.

Didn’t Ghandi have something to do with Bhudda?

Nietzsche was pietzsche
But Sartre was smartre.

Makes sense. And for the record, it’s pronounced Gaan dhee.

Yeah, they both have their names mispronounced and misspelled.

It’s Boo(d) dh-aa. It’s hard to explain how the first two syllables are pronounced. I can’t find an equivalent sound in an indigenous English word.

If you were looking for a factual answer (which I’m sure you were not), consider that gh is a common digraph in English while dh is not.

Not only do we have enough tough words through our language that contain the gh combination, including several ghastly words (think ghee) found near the ghetto of the dictionary, we even have several words, (most, like Gandhi, proper names borrowed or transcripted from other languanges), that begin with Gh: Ghana, Ghent, Ghibelline.

In contrast, the few words we have with a dh combination are borrowings from SURPRISE! India and are not very common: dole, dhoti, (and how many English speakers knew dharma before Dharma and Greg?). (Dhow would be the non-Indian exception–and it is hardly a common word and may have gotten its spelling via India.)

Because we sure as hell can’t whistle it.

Exactly. The last syllable of my (Swiss) surname is “gehr.” People invariably want to spell it “gher.”

Well…then there’s Genghis Khan, which is often misspelled Ghengis. And then throw in the Western surname of Kahn into the mix…

Hell, I always thought that was Genghis Cohen!

Genghis Cohen, Court Appointed Lawyer.

tomndeb you forgot ‘D’oh’

Aka Cohen the Barbarian.

Well, you have to forgive us English-speakers, seeing as how we’ve only just recently figured out how to spell “Mumbai” and “Kolkata.”

Pardon me for asking such a factual question in the Pit, but is there an accepted way to transliterate Hindi into Roman characters?

Given the nature of Dopers, it’s not unprecedented to have a Pit thread turn into a bunch of GQ-ish posts. Anyway, while we’re waiting for a linguistics expert to chime in, I’ll just note that Cecil himself has considered the issue of Romanizing Arabic names, specifically in the case Muammar Qaddafi. And for what it’s worth, the Library of Congress has listed its scheme (or the American Library Association’s scheme, rather) for transliterating non-Roman scripts. I don’t know if these are the accepted standards, but I’d guess they are amongst the most widely adopted.

Huh ? The official names of those cities in English were Bombay and Calcutta. Then, the BJP and allies came to power at the centre and in various states. The ally in Bombay (Shiv Sena) officially changed the name of the city in 1997 to Mumbai for which I’ll never forgive them. The same thing happened to Calcutta.

No. A certain English spelling can often be validly pronounced in multiple ways. Also, some sounds and nuances just don’t occur in English, so I don’t think you’ll ever have a perfect transliteration mapping. Of course, there are preferred mappings. But with regards to accurate transliteration, I don’t think there’s any acceptable mapping.