BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

How to say: Baalbek

Host Host | 12:05 UK time, Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Lena OlaussonA guide to words and names in the news, from Lena Olausson of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

"Today's name is the Lebanese town Baalbek (sometimes spelt Ba'albek).

"The pronunciation, BAAL-bek, is listed in English gazetteers and dictionaries and is an established anglicisation. The Arabic pronunciation has a pharyngeal consonant before the second A."

(Click for a guide to our phonetic pronunciations (PDF).)


  • 1.
  • At 04:14 PM on 02 Aug 2006,
  • Bridget wrote:

OK, I give up, what's a 'pharyngeal consonant'?

  • 2.
  • At 10:53 AM on 03 Aug 2006,
  • David wrote:

Should the BBC Pronunciation Unit not also give the correct Arabic pronunciation of "Baalbek" (بعلبك‎)? If one were to transliterate the name correctly, it would be written "Ba'labakk".

Similarly, BBC News seems to ignore the correct spelling and pronunciation for the "Bekaa" (البقاع) Valley, in which Ba'labakk is situated. It should be written and pronounced "Al-Biqa'".

Okay, so BAAL-bek is in English Gazetters and is an established anglicisation.

That's great... so what is Bombay if it not the established anglicisation of Mumbai? What is good enough for Lebanon is not good enough for India?

Perhaps it is because the 'pharyngeal consonant' does not trip off the tongue so easily? So if the localisation is easy to say, then go for it, if not go with the established anglicisation.

What mind bending inconsistant hypocracy... If we have to listen to Mumbai, I would like ... in fact I demand that the 'pharyngeal consonant' is honoured ;-)

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.