Posts Tagged ‘naming’

Two ‘odds and sods’ today, provoked by a couple of things in the news…


Once upon a time, there was a convention, or so it seemed, that if the government had a reshuffle of ministers, then the main opposition party had one as well. That, thankfully, went the way of all things some time ago. But it’s still rare (rarer than it should be) that the main opposition – the Labour Party right now – has a reshuffle on its own.

The opposition has both a harder job and an easier one when it comes to reshuffles. The promotions are purely career makers, the demotions the removal of career opportunities. Being promoted doesn’t bring additional pay, doesn’t bring additional power, doesn’t even bring much additional internal party authority.

Unlike with the government where one of the big three jobs — Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer — is seen as not only a forerunner and a necessity to become Prime Minister, it’s not the same with opposition. Also, unlike the government, the job of shadowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer isn’t as fireproofed a job as its counterpart in government.

The other difference is that of presentation. If you’re the PM then there are the ritual ‘ministers leaving Number Ten’ shots. That doesn’t happen with opposition reshuffles.

You’d think all of the above might make opposition reshuffles less nasty, less… difficult. Not a chance. What opposition reshuffles lack in formality, they more than make up for in venom. While I can remember, faintly, government reshuffles that haven’t been a complete disaster, I struggle to recall any opposition reshuffles that haven’t been accompanied by well-founded accusations of nastiness, petty point scoring, and fuckups. My gods, the fuckups.

There hasn’t been a smooth opposition reshuffle for at least a decade, not since the days when David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition; Corbyn was shit at them, and Starmer’s incompetent at them. Both Corbyn and Starmer obviously hated doing them — not a surprise there, most politicians do — but they’re so obviously bad at them as well.

There’s an opposition reshuffle occurring right now and it looks like it’s going to be every bit as much a disaster as the previous.

Of course, we’ll get the exchange of letters, the parting shots of the departed and the entirely fictional expressions of gratitude from the leader.

I’ve referred on occasion previously to Jeremy Paxman’s excellent book The Politcial Animal, Here’s Paxman on how one particular Prime Minister dealt with getting rid of a minister:

There is no disguising the essential fact that you are being dispensed with because the Prime Minister thinks you’re less good at your job than someone else might be. Few have been as brutally frank as Clement Attlee, though. He once got rid of a Scottish Secretary with the words, “Good t’see you. I’m carrying through Government changes. Want your job for someone else. Sake of the party, y’know? Write me the usual letter. Think of something as the excuse: health, family, too much travelling, constituency calls. Anything will do. Good fellow. Thanks.”

For a moment, the minister was stunned. Then it sank in. He was being slung out of the government. “But why, Prime Minister? Why have you sacked me like this, with no warning, with no complaints that I know of?” Attlee, who was already scribbling on the papers on his desk, looked up, removed the pipe from his mouth, and blurted out, “‘Cos you don’t measure up to yer job. That’s why. Secretary will show you out.”

They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Which is a pity, as recognising that a minister/shadow minister ain’t up to the job should be one of the essential skills a Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition, needs.


I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not even particularly knowledgable about medical or scientific matters. I do ok, but I’m not particularly knowledgable more than anyone else is who… pays attention. I do, however, trust the scientists who have been working on the covid virus for the past two years.

And while I’ve found some succour in dark humour, I don’t find much funny about the absurdity in which we’ve found ourselves the past couple of years. I guess, it’s in part because by training and inclination I like… certainty, and since early 2020, certainty has been lacking.

That said, I have chuckled on occasion precisely because of the odd absurdities tyhat have occurred.

For the past year, the variants have been named after Greek letters.

Before the latest one, the latest variants of interest were Lamda (λ) and Mu (μ).

Now the next in the Greek alphabet should be, under current naming protocols, Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ).

Except that they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ), and jumping straight to Omicron (ο).

(I wonder if they’ll keep π for the next one; it’ll bugger up every school child’s googling if they do…)

But why they’re skipping Nu (ν) and Xi (ξ) is what fascinates me. The official reasons are that Nu (ν) is being skipped because it would be confused with the word “new” and Xi (ξ) is being passed over because the Premier of China is named Xi, and they’ve fucking had enough of “Chinese flu” being used as an insult.

OK, they didn’t quite put it in that way. Instead;

“It went from mu to omicron, jumping both nu and XI. Nu, the reasoning was people would get confused thinking it was the New variant rather than a name. And XI because it’s a common surname and we have agreed naming rules that avoid using place names, people’s names, animal etc to avoid stigma.”
—- Dr. Margaret Harris, WHO spokeswoman

The former – Nu (ν) – though, reminds me of when I got married.

It’s relevant, I promise. When I got married, some twenty-seven years ago, it was in a traditional Jewish ceremony, complete with being married under a canopy. As part of the wedding ceremony, both my bride and I, and our parents, drank from a glass… and then came the ‘famous’ bit, the thing that most non-Jews know about Jewish weddings. A glass was placed in front of me, and I stamped on it, smashing it, and everyone shouted Mazel Tov!

There are various stories how this tradition got started and to what it refers. To get the silly one out of the way first, it’s suggested that it’s the last time the fella gets to put his foot down, so he might as well make a big thing of it.


The ‘proper’ reason is that it commemorates the last destruction of the Temple to remind Jews that even in the midst of celebration, there is a mark of rememberance. That one never made much sense to me, seeing as we mark it by shouting Mazel Tov!

I much prefer the folk etymology version, one said to me by a rabbi, tongue only semi-deep in his cheek. We drink from a glass to celebrate the marriage; we then smash a glass to remove the possibility that any… lesser toast can be drunk from the glass.

It’s not what happens, but as a Mr Gaiman once reminded us… something need not have happened for it to be true.

And the same applies with Nu (ν) being skipped.

Because I, as a Jewish fella, am very pleased Nu (ν) was skipped for a different reason. Because it would just be too confusing.

     “I’m feeling a bit rough.”


     “Naah, just a sore throat.”


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

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This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.