The rapid appearance of new COVID-19 variants such as Omicron has caused a naming crisis that threatens to overwhelm scientists, health officials, educators, and the public. Our research indicates that alternative terminological models, based upon already accepted linguistic templates, are more likely than the current Greek alphabetic system to find general favor and staunch fears concerning a pending “nomenclature gap.”
The Omicron variant has caused an international emergency: No one can pronounce it. And those who can are anxious about what to call succeeding variants. Alphabetically, the next should be Pi, but since every school child knows that’s also the name of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, the name is likely to trigger alarm in mathematics classrooms. After Pi comes Sigma — easy to say but also notable for its use by many fraternities and sororities. University presidents are already concerned that celebrations of the coincidence will become super-spreader events. Moreover, because there are only nine more letters in the Greek alphabet after Omicron, there looms a Covid appellation shortfall.
The authors therefore propose a new model for the naming of Covid variants based upon an already widely accepted system of nomenclature: Three-letter acronyms. In addition to its mnemonic value, the model we propose provides important information about the nature of the variant, serving the cause of prophylaxis. For example, the current Omicron variant, according to the new system, will be renamed OMG, retaining phonetic resemblance to the original designation but also highlighting the panic it has caused. The sample acronyms listed below are in alphabetical order but would be selected based upon their epidemiological salience.
Supporting examples and discussion:
AIG – high net worth individuals are unaffected by this variant
AMA – especially dangerous to Medicaid patients and the uninsured
CIA – overthrows the immune system, often fatal
CNN – induces drowsiness and political complacency
CRT – triggers moral panic, frequent co-morbidity with GOP variant (see below)
DNC – self-destructs every November
GOP — microchip resistant, treatable with bleach, ivermectin, and ultraviolet light
ICE — cage shaped proteins, especially impacts immigrant children
KFC – causes rapid weight gain
MBS – potentially fatal to journalists
PDF — difficult to gene edit
PHD – renders patients unable to find work and deep in debt
UPS – few apparent symptoms but damages internal cell structure
WTF – unpredictable symptomatology
The rapidly spreading COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, has caused a terminological crisis that is unsustainable at current educational levels. Absent mass tutelage in Greek, a new system of variant-naming is called for, one that is easily understood, aids biomedical research in the search for cure, and reminds the public that it is the working class than suffers most from capitalist-induced pandemics.