Apart from raising the concerns of the international health experts and sending financial markets into chaos, the emergence of the new variant of COVID-19 got the Internet confused over how the new name Omicron was chosen by the World Health Organization.
In an apparent ‘politically correct’ decision, WHO opted on Friday to skip two letters in the Greek alphabet when naming the latest COVID variant first detected in South Africa.
According to data on the WHO website, the next letters in the Greek alphabet that were yet to be used for a variant were Nu and Xi, but the organization has intentionally chosen Omicron in an effort to prevent future confusion or, God forbid, political scandal.
According to speculations disseminated by politicians and Internet pundits, the WHO skipped Nu to avoid confusion with the word “new” and closed the eyes for Xi because of its written similarity to the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s name.
Retweeting a Telegraph editor who cited a WHO source saying Xi was skipped to “avoid stigmatizing a region,” GOP Senator Ted Cruz snapped at WHO, asking them how can they be trusted to call out Beijing next time they’re trying to cover up a catastrophic global pandemic if it’s scared of the Chinese Communist Party?
After several media outlets prematurely started calling the Omicron variant “Nu,” other Twitter users joked about the announced choice, with one of them saying he’s a letter enthusiast saddened for Nu and Xi not getting their moments.
Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer, on the other hand, had a different take, giving Kudos to the WHO for the confusion-escaping move.
But the United Nations public health agency’s spokeswoman noted in a later statement that it avoided Nu and Xi for two reasons: because people would’ve confused Nu for new variant and since Xi is a common surname and goes against the agency’s rule to avoid using names of places, people and animal to avoid stigma.