Why Saddam rather than Hussein

Why do the media always seem to refer to Saddam Hussein by his first name? Or is it a cultural difference so that Saddam is actually his last name?

In years past it was done to distinguish him from King Hussein of Jordan, an ally of the US.

It’s because Arab names often do not include family names. Often it’s just the given name followed by the father’s given name.

Saddam Husayn is a name of this type. No last name. Husayn was his father’s first name. In Arabic, the only correct way to refer to him is Saddam because it’s all first name and no family name. In Egypt, they have officially made the standard name format in three parts: 1) Your given name, 2) your father’s given name, 3) your paternal grandfather’s given name. This explains why so many Arab women have masculine middle names: it’s really a patronymic.

Seems like I’ve answered this question here a dozen times already, that’s why there’s a search function, to avoid repeating questions that have already been asked and answered.

I didn’t force you to answer it. In fact given your attitude I rather wish you hadn’t.

My attitude needs no adjusting. You’re new here and need to understand how this community works. I explained it to you so you could learn the ways we do things here. If I hadn’t pointed this out to you, someone else would have.

This naming convention is (or was) evident in Iraq itself, where lots of things were named after him. Such as Saddam Airport, Saddam City, Saddam Hospital, etc.

At least in American political circles, though, there’s more to it…

I remember the watching exact speech in which the elder President (G.H.W.) Bush started referring to Hussein as “Saddam”. It was very clearly meant to be belittling and contemptuous.

It was an obvious departure from the forms of reference used for foreign leaders, even ones with whom we were in conflict. The change was discussed and debated for a while after the speech, but the usage persisted.

There’s also a conventthat includes something that seems to be akin to “von Detroit”

IIRC, SH has an al-Tikriti attached to him

You’re right, this is how this community works. You could have just skipped this thread, but a hardcore Doper will never pass up an opportunity to lord it over a perceived inferior. Pointedly transcribing “Hussein” as the practically unheard-of but undoubtedly more informed “Husayn” was a nice touch. You musta done some fancy A-rab studyin’ to know that.

What search would you advise the culprit to have performed in order to obtain the desired information?

He also, as I understand it, was deliberately mispronouncing the name.

I don’t have a cite, as I heard this way back in 1991 or thereabouts, but the mispronunciation had the effect of completely changing the meaning of the name. Properly pronounced, the name Saddam (suh-DOM) means something along the lines of “Mighty warrior who leads his people to victory”. Mispronounced as SAD-um, as G.H.W.B did, the meaning changed to, roughly, “One who polishes old men’s boots”.

I also remember the deliberate mispronunciation. To an American ear, it sounded like he was saying Sadamn. I didn’t know that it translated differently in Arabic.

Saddam is a darn odd name. I wonder if it is in fact his ‘given’ name. I have never met anyone named Saddam.

The word means something like ‘Stubborn,’ or ‘Resistant.’ In Saudi Arabic, it is the common word for a car bumper.

She has. If you knew better, you’d know that “Husayn” is the preferred transliteration of his name in educated circles, so it’s just natural for Johanna to type it this way. Your comment is like being irritated at someone who uses the “Mao Tse-tung Jun-chih” over “Máo Zédōng Rùnzhī”. Both are the same name in the original language and transliterated differently in English.

“Saddam Hussein family name” got me these two threads on the first page.

People, please stop the bickering. If it continues, this thread will be closed.

General Questions Moderator

I’ve heard this explanation a lot over the years, but having been a member of the American press since the 1990s and having been a close follower of the national American news media prior to that, I feel fairly confident in saying that this is more or less completely untrue.

The way American journalists report stories, there would never be any such need to make a distinction between the two men based on a single-name reference. Mainstream American news sources always identify people fully on first reference. Later references would be clear. The only time that it would be necessary to find a way to refer to the two men differently would be if they were both being mentioned in the same story, and that would be seldom enough that there wouldn’t have to be a rule to handle it. (Within a story, you would just use constructions like “the Jordanian monarch” and “the Iraqi ruler” or repeat their full names). In this case, also, the common transliterations of the men’s names used by the American press are slightly different: “King Hussein” and “Saddam Hussain.”

In fact, it is not unheard of for a name to be shared by two people who might be the subject of a news story. In no other case has the American press found it necessary to standardize the use of one man’s first name in order to head off any potential confusion. (Well, we’ve already got this famous TV psychic call “John Edward” that everyone knows about; so we’d better refer to the Democratic running mate as “Senator Johnny,” so people don’t get confused.) The news media relies largely on context to deal with these issues.

So, anyway, it has nothing to do with King Hussein.

Yeeesssss, I figured it was. Thanks for letting me know. No wonder Foreign Affairs keeps rejecting my articles.

They are? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it spelled Hussain in an American news story. A search of news.google.com gives 17,800 hits for “saddam hussein” and only 51 for “saddam hussain”. Likewise a search on king hussein jordan gets 232 hits while king hussain jordan gets 5. Similar ratios are found on cnn.com.

Admittedly these are not exhaustive searches but on the face of things it seems the Hussein spelling is by far the most common for both men.

Is this true? Have I just been reading Saddam’s name wrong all along? I thought the press usually transliterated it as Hussein, same as the king’s name…

It’s already been answered, but here’s an earlier, and very informative, thread:

“Ai”/“ei” – It must be the painkillers I’m on.

Oo, how painful to see how thoroughly I embarrassed myself oh so long ago. But, really, all that thread seems to confirm is that nobody really knows why the news media refer to Saddam Hussein by his “first” name.

Unless I see some solid evidence, I’m going to have to stick to my position that it has nothing to do with King Hussein. That explanation just doesn’t make any sense to anyone who has any familiarity with how the American news media work.

So, for now, officer, my position is: We know it’s not because of King Hussein. Other than that, it’s still up in the air.