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OH-mee-cron or AH-meh-cron? And what about OMNI-cron?
President Biden repeatedly mispronounced the latest COVID variant while giving a speech at the White House on Monday.
Like everyday people from Brooklyn to Beijing, the president struggled to say the unfamiliar name of the new strain of the pandemic virus that was identified last week in South Africa.
“We’ve moved forward in the face of COVID-19 (and) we have moved forward in the face of the delta variant,” Biden said. “We will move forward now in the face of the omnicron variant.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci also incorrectly called the variant “omnicron” in answering a reporter’s question.
So how are you supposed to say omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet?
It’s not that simple. There are two acceptable pronunciations, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
omicron: ˈä-mə-ˌkrän or ˈō-mə-ˌkrän
The World Health Organization is naming significant new variants of COVID-19 after Greek letters to limit the stigmatization of countries or regions where they are first identified.
The next letter in line was nu, but the WHO said it would be confusing to the public because that letter sounds no different from the English word “new.”
The following letter would have been “xi” but the WHO likely wanted to avoid offending the Chinese Premier Xi Jinping with that name. It noted “xi” is a common surname.
So we got omicron. It may not cause any diplomatic incidents but it’s a tongue-twister, as President Biden and Dr. Fauci have proven.