Thanks to LanguageHat, I now have the answer to something that had been puzzling me for a while. Why, do you think, do newsreaders and politicians refer to "Saddam Hussein" as "Saddam"? I always thought this use of his first name seemed incongruous; it would be very odd to refer to Tony Blair as "Tony" and Jacques Chirac as "Jacques" in the news.
Apparently, it’s due to several reasons : "Hussein" is his father’s first name, and it would be confusing to call him that, whereas everyone knows who Saddam is. In fact, his full name used to be Saddam Hussein al-Majid al-Tikriti ("Saddam, son of Hussein al-Majid, part of the al-Tikriti tribe."). But when the Baath Party came to power in 1968, it outlawed the use of tribal names, as citizens were now expected to be loyal to the state and the President and not to their tribe’s chief, and that is why the ex-President of Iraq became to be known as Saddam Hussein. Full explanation here. I particularly enjoyed this analysis on how to pronounce his name:
There is also a theory among critics that the White House has gone out of its way to mispronounce the name. They complain that one version, "SOD-um," is intended to conjure up the biblical city of ill fame. They also claim that another version, "SAD-um," is part of a conspiracy to twist the meaning in Arabic. "SAD-um" was the popular choice of George W. Bush’s father during the early 1990s. Putting the accent on the first syllable, scholars argue, turns "one who confronts" [Saddam in arabic, when it’s pronounced properly] into "barefoot beggar."
After reviewing the evidence, Susan Butler, the publisher of Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary, made the following observation: "Fascinating as it is, I wonder if the first President Bush’s Arabic was up to it."