Give Media Nation credit. I believe I’ve come up with the least interesting sidebar to the violent international dispute over those cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Simply put: Why does the Boston Globe spell it “Mohammed”? I remember that spelling from childhood. But, at some point, “Mohammed” became “Muhammad” and “Moslem” became “Muslim,” apparently out of some language expert’s desire to make the English versions of those words conform more closely to the Arabic.
The Associated Press Stylebook specifies “Muhammad.” The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), and the Los Angeles Times have all been going with “Muhammad.” Yet the Globe steadfastly renders the name as “Mohammed,” as it did in this Colin Nickerson piece today.
Of course, the Globe is free to develop its own house style and to go with spellings that other publications spurn. But the paper hasn’t been especially consistent. I did a LexisNexis search that showed the Globe has referred to “the prophet Muhammad” on at least a half-dozen occasions since November 2004. Granted, it has gone with “Mohammed” far more often. But the whole point of having a stylebook is to eliminate such disparities, which can be confusing to readers.
I realize that, while I’m obsessing over trivia, people are dying. Thus I offer you Mark Jurkowitz’s thoughtful commentary on the larger issues surrounding this.