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    Re: Arabic "Al" and star names
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Nov 6, 23:09 -0800

    John you wrote:
    "I can't keep track of how many people tell me the "proper" way to pronounce 
    Betegeuse.    It always starts out with a question of whether I know the 
    proper way to pronounce it....now this last bit is great!"
    Yeah, because of the movie "Beetlejuice" and also the radio/tv/film versions 
    of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", the pronunciation of Betelgeuse 
    was relatively stable, sounding like "beetle juice", for a couple of decades. 
    But some people consider that pronunciation embarassing so they insist on 
    finding a more scholarly pronunciation. Others hope for a more international 
    pronunciation. And still others try to get something that's closer to the 
    original Arabic. None of these make much sense. I always advise people to 
    pronounce star names in the fashion least likely to confuse their target 
    audience. There is no "right" pronunciation.
    If you want more on star name etymologies, I recommend "A Dictionary of Modern 
    Star Names" by Paul Kunitzsch and Tim Smart (2nd rev. ed., Sky Publishing, 
    2006). Kunitzsch seems to have made the only modern attempt to develop proper 
    etymologies for the classical star names. Many people still treat an old book 
    by R.H. Allen (originally published in 1899, and available online via Google 
    Books, and re-published several times after) as the primary resource for star 
    names and his version of the Betelgeuse etymology is frequently quoted, for 
    example in the Wikipedia page, which is a bit of a mess. By that probably 
    mistaken etymology, the name originally meant "The Giant's Armpit" but by the 
    etymology offered by Kunitsch et al., it's "The Hand of the Central One". Of 
    the modern star names derived from Arabic, most are simply descriptive 
    phrases of the star's location within the constellation more or less directly 
    translated from Ptolemy's catalogue, where the descriptive locations were 
    given in Greek. For example, the delightful star name Zubenelgenubi for alpha 
    Librae means nothing more than the "the Southern Claw" (the stars of Libra 
    were previously seen as the claws of the scorpion). Because of this most 
    Arabic star names are easy to "reverse engineer" and understand. Some Arabic 
    star names, however, are derived from indigenous bedouin traditions and these 
    are much harder to work out. That group includes Betelgeuse and Aldebaran and 
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