If you were to list the Top Five topics that Batman fans argue over, I’m sure one of them would be how to pronounce “Ra’s al Ghul.” Though I’m uncertain of whether the debate originally emerged after his first appearance in 1971’s Batman #232, the fire was no doubt ignited once the villain began appearing in other media.
Basically, you’ve probably heard the League of Assassins’ master’s name spoken one of two ways, those being “Rahz al Ghul” or “Raysh al Ghul.” Having spent most of my life in the Detroit area which boasts a large Middle Eastern population, I’ve long known the answer – but let’s allow for one of the character’s co-creators to weigh in, shall we?
During our recent discussion at Michigan Comic Convention, I brought up this topic with Neal Adams himself, and here’s what he had to say:
“I’m told that, in Hebrew, it might be pronounced that way [‘Raysh’]. But I spoke to a Saudi Arabian kid who was 16 years old… and he said, ‘Rahz al Ghul.’ It’s in English, right? It’s not in Arabic. It’s spells ‘Ra’s,’ there’s no other way to pronounce that.”
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So, if you watched Batman Begins and cursed Liam Neeson’s iteration for being called “Rahz,” then you were wrong to do so. Funny enough, Arrow‘s Matt Nable was addressed by both pronunciations, but Gotham‘s Alexander Siddig did answer to “Raysh.”
I don’t know where DC Comics pulled “Raysh” from, but it always seemed odd to me that the guy’s name would be one-third Hebrew and two-thirds Arabic, so I’ve long favored “Rahz” myself. Still, I’ve considered the possibility of regional dialects, to which Adams replied:
“To me, the analogy is this: you go into a bakery shop and you see a crescent roll. And you say, ‘I’d like a crescent roll,’ and then someone comes in next to you and says, ‘I’ll have a croissant,’ and makes the little honky sound with their nose. I guess if you were in France, it’s a croissant. But here, pal, it’s a crescent roll. So, this kind of affectation, I think, is what happened with ‘Raysh’ al Ghul.”
Having factored that into the debate, maybe we could say either way works. But if we can agree on anything, it’s that the lady who pronounced it “Razz al Ghul” in Batman Begins was going too far. To me, that sounds like some kind of raspberry dessert.
Speaking of which, it’s recommended that you pick up Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul #1, which is written and illustrated by Neal Adams himself, when it arrives in comic shops on September 4th. In the meantime, feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.