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After omicron variant, let’s ditch the COVID-19 Greek alphabet
“Xi” and “nu” didn’t work, so experts should consider other names. Von Trapp variant?
The hills are alive with the sound of variants!
The hills are alive with the sound of variants! [ 20th Century Fox/TNS ]
Published Dec. 1, 2021

The Greek alphabet is causing drama. Developed in the 9th century B.C., it has become a political flashpoint destined for a cable news chyron reading CHAOS AND HYSTERIA: ANCIENT GREECE TO BLAME? All I’m saying is, Glagolitic script should watch its back.

The World Health Organization has been naming coronavirus variants after Greek letters since May. We all know delta, which ruined our summer outfits. Epsilon and iota disappeared without much fuss. But when the WHO got to nu, the meetings turned into an Abbott and Costello sketch. Around xi, concerns about China came up, and the WHO was all, “Alexa, Skip!”

Now, here we are at omicron. Experts say it will take weeks to figure out if it’s more deadly or contagious than others. Do not panic! But if you’re prone to panic, Greek Lettergate is a handy distraction from imagining a world in which we are destined to get boosters like free koozies at minor league baseball games (I will do it).

Related: Omicron and other coronavirus variants: What you need to know

I propose the World Health Organization dump the Greek alphabet before it gets to the next letter, pi. We had pi variant at Thanksgiving, anyway. A pumpkin pi, an apple pi... Sorry, that joke was low-hanging fruit. I’m so sorry. I can’t be crusted.

Scientific names are hard to remember. Delta, for example, was B.1.617.2, which also is the classroom your kid has to be in Wednesday at 3:30 for holiday chorus, or was it math tutoring at 3:15? There has to be a better way.

For instance, Sound of Music characters are plentiful, with the added public relations bonus of being beloved. It’s time to make room for the Liesl variant, the Friedrich variant and, I guess, the Kurt variant, if we have to. When the children run out, we move to the misunderstood Baroness Elsa von Schraeder variant, and the most likely to have commitment issues, the Captain von Trapp variant.

How about the zodiac? The new variant sounds complicated, like a Cancer sun with Sagittarius rising. Or maybe it’s a Scorpio with Venus in Gemini and a Virgo moon variant. All we need to figure it out is the exact time, date, latitude and longitude where the variant was born. It’s simple! Wait, this is a bad idea.

Rabbits? That would be comforting. Holland Lop variant, Flemish Giant variant, Netherland Dwarf variant, Soviet Chinchilla vari... gah, too political.

Variant names should translate across borders. Experts, please consider common wordless expressions, such as the eye-roll variant, the heavy-sigh variant, the eyebrow-scrunch variant, the cheek-puff variant and the I’m-gonna-hurl-face variant. Eventually, we will reach the just-resting-my-eyes-for-a-second variant.

Maybe we should simplify things entirely with numbers. That way, when we get to variant 4,567, it will align perfectly with the years spent living in a pandemic. Koozie, anyone?

Related: Read more columns from Stephanie Hayes
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