Why is it called Omicron?

The New York Times explains it all:

“When the W.H.O. began to name emerging variants of the coronavirus, they turned to the Greek alphabet — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and so on — to make them easier to describe. The first “variant of concern,” Alpha, was identified in Britain in late 2020, soon followed by Beta in South Africa.

“But veterans of American sorority and fraternity life might have noticed the system has skipped the next two letters in the alphabetical order: Nu and Xi.

“Officials thought Nu would be too easily confused with “new,” but the next letter, Xi, is a bit more complicated. W.H.O. officials said it was a common last name, and therefore potentially confusing. Some noted that it is also the name of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping.

“A spokesman for the W.H.O. said the organization’s policy was designed to avoid “causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups.”

“Next in line? Omicron.”

From Omicron: What Is Known – and Still Unknown by Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, Dec 2, 2021

* * * * *

Glosso’s advent calendar: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 2


Day 2 of Glosso’s popular evergreen advent calendar, “Baubles of Britishisms”. Each day, leading up to the quintessential British day of rest and relaxation (“Boxing Day”), you’ll open a window to the world of quirky Brit-speak.


In the wars.

“Allen is back on the field with his head wrapped up in bandages. He has certainly been in the wars lately after also being smashed in the face by Fellaini in the Belgium vs. Wales game, but this latest wound doesn’t seem to be bothering him too much.” — Sports Mole, 23 Nov 2014

In the wars? The 62-year-old seemed to be sporting a fat lip perhaps the result of his daily boxing classes.” — Daily Mail‘s picture caption describing Mickey Rourke

To have injuries to many different parts of the body, or multiple health problems. Often used ironically to describe someone with minor injuries. As WiseGeek explains, it originally referred only to soldiers who had literally been in the wars, but now it’s for anyone feeling a bit sorry for themselves because of ailments large and small.

Glosso’s advent calendar: Baubles of Britishisms – Dec 1


In the run-up to Christmas, Glosso offers its popular evergreen advent calendar, “Baubles of Britishisms”. Each day, leading up to the quintessential British day of rest and relaxation – “Boxing Day” – you’ll open a window to the world of quirky Brit-speak.


On day 1, we’ll kick off with one of our euphemisms for kicking the bucket. What could be more quintessentially English? Continue reading

The advent of Glosso’s advent calendar …

Back by popular demand, Glosso’s shiny advent calendar will be running again this year, starting (of course) on Wednesday, Dec 1. Check in for your “Baubles of Britishisms,” which run daily through our most British of named holidays, “Boxing Day.” (And if you don’t know what day that is, then just keep opening your bauble windows, and you’ll find out soon enough.)

There might be another surprise buried among the baubles: we’ll keep you posted.

* * * * *

A book review on Book Lovers Day

On Book Lovers Day, Glossophilia is drawing your attention to a very funny (and beautifully written) review of a couple of books that have recently hit the headlines, mainly thanks to the stellar PR work of the publishers involved, and not because of any runaway literary success on the part of either of the duchess-authoresses. The review is worthy not just because of its witty characterizations of the books and their respective creators, but also because of its historical romp through the right royal writing adventures of Kings and Queens past. Enjoy Andrew O’Hagan’s review of The Bench and Her Heart for a Compass – neither of whose authors needs any introduction – in the London Review of Books, August 12 edition.

For Glossophiles wanting to go a bit further down The Bench rabbit-hole, with some more specific and exquisite analysis of the Duchess of Sussex’s rhyming clangers (Andrew O’Hagan in his review noted her instinct for posterity, but the same can’t necessarily be said for her poetry), read the New York Times‘s review of the bestseller, from which here’s a Glossophiliac excerpt:

There is no excuse, in a book of fewer than 200 words, for every syllable not to be just right. Even a tiny discordant note can throw the whole thing into disarray. This is even more true with rhyming books. Force-feeding words into unlikely configurations to eke out a tortured rhyme works about as well as stuffing a foot into a too-small glass slipper and passing it off as a perfect fit. “You’ll love him. / You’ll listen. / You’ll be his supporter. / When life feels in shambles / You’ll help him find order,” Meghan writes. Not terrible, but not terrific. What she does in the last line of the book, though — contracting “alone” into “’lone” in order to get it to rhyme with “home” — should be illegal.

Book Lovers Day is celebrated on August 9 every year. This unofficial holiday encourages bibliophiles around the world to celebrate reading and literature. Put away your smartphones, ditch social media for a day, and pick up a good book – written by a duchess or not.


Famous songs native to or translated into other languages

Can you guess which chart-topping song eventually enjoyed a popular French incarnation as “Bravo tu as gagné?” Or which famous songs started their commercial lives in French as “Le Moribond” and “Commes d’Habitudes” respectively? Do you know which two songs The Beatles decided to record and release in German? Read more about how these and other hit songs came to enjoy lives in multiple lingos …

Continue reading