The World Health Organization needs my help. If you haven’t heard, the current COVID variants are named after Greek letters and there are only 24 letters available. WHO is seeking a new “nomenclature” to use after omega — the last Greek letter — is assigned.

So here’s my small list of new names — all chosen in the spirit of poking fun at the COVID virus and ourselves as we navigate our way into and out of and back into and out of and back into and out of this pandemic.

  1. Who

This is an obvious choice and all credit for the idea goes to the great Abbott and Costello routine. Here is how a conversation about this variant might go.

Jim: Hey Bob, what name did WHO decide to call the new variant?

Bob: Who.

Jim: Right, WHO.

Bob: Yes.

Jim: What do you mean, yes?

Bob: WHO decided that’s the new name!

Jim: I already know that! But what are they calling the new variant?

Bob: Who!!!

Jim: WHO!!!

Bob: Right!

2. A low-sodium diet lowers your blood pressure.

Why not add a healthy lifestyle tip every time you say the variant’s name?

“Shoot, I just tested positive for ‘a low sodium diet lowers your blood pressure.’ If you need me, I’ll be in quarantine.”

3. Advertising campaign.

The WHO could make lots of money by selling the rights of a highly contagious variant to a business that wants to saturate the market with a new advertising slogan.

“I have a sore throat and I hear the local pharmacy is offering free tests for ‘Ben’s Discount Furniture — our cushions are the cushiest. Now open on Sundays.'”

4. Civics lesson

I chose this idea because I’m always hearing that civics should be taught more.

“I read that ‘Our government is divided into three branches: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive’ is running like wildfire through Emily’s family.”

5. About what.

Let’s listen to this conversation between a doctor and her patient.

Doctor: The results of your COVID test came back.

Patient: OK, I want you to be honest. What do the results say?

Doctor: About what.

Patient: My results.

Doctor: I just told you. How do you feel?

Patient: About what?

Doctor: Your results! Do you want me to tell your family?

Patient: About what?

Doctor: Yes, about that!

Patient: About that?!

Doctor: No, about what!

Patient: What?!

6. The ending of “The Great Gatsby.”

This is my book club variant. Let us sit down and tell sad stories about the “green light” and the lamentable nobility of seeking a past you can’t have. We’ll all feel better afterward.

Jim calls Bob at home.

Jim: Hi, Bob. How do you feel?

Bob: I have a sore throat and an upset stomach.

Jim: What does your doctor think?

Bob: The doctor thinks I have “And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther … And one fine morning—

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Jim: We must have a bad connection because I didn’t hear anything you just said. Can you repeat it?


Gregory Greenleaf lives in Harpswell and teaches high school English. He ascribes, prescribes and subscribes to many old-fashioned ideas, but especially Charles Dickens’ observation that “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”