We all know our Alpha, Betas and our Gamma, Deltas, but by the time you are getting towards the arse-end of the Greek alphabet some of the names of the individual letters are not so familiar unless you are a Classicist, and Omicron is such an example.
Omicron is the fifteenth letter in the Greek alphabet, and has its own derivation from the Phoenician letter ayin, which is the sixteenth letter of the Semitic abjads. The Roman letter ‘o’ arose from Omicron.
Whereas some Greek letters such as Phi, Gamma and Delta found a nice little gig in US fraternities and sororities, whilst others such as Pi found fame in mathematics and Booker Prize winning novel titles, leaving others like Alpha and Beta to literally reach for the stars by appearing frequently in Bayer designations in astronomy, Omicron never really flourished in the same way.
Perhaps its superficial appearance to the number Zero proved a handicap? Or maybe because it sounds too much like a potential brand name for a powerful toilet detergent? Whatever the reason, Omicron was the ugly duckling of the alphabet symbols.
Now, Omicron has its moment. Like a contestant in the over-30s category of the X-Factor, Omicron’s time has come. It is the word on everybody’s lips.
Because the World Health Organisation has named the B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19 after it. It is probably not the fame that Omicron might have wished for. Even the powerful toilet detergent would have been preferable. Omicron’s legacy might be one of misery and notoriety. Sometimes it is better to lurk unnoticed in a quiet backwater than to be the centre of the wrong kind of attention. I should know; I have made it a modus operandi for my entire working life.
I find myself left with one question. What do they call Covid variants in Greece?
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree is not unfamiliar with being overlooked.