Cracking the Omicron Code

On today’s episode of Spectacular Vernacular, Nicole and Ben discuss the pronunciation of the name of the latest COVID variant. They also interview Alex Bellos, puzzle columnist for The Guardian and author of The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book. And finally, Amanda Ripley, host of Slate’s podcast How To! joins us for some wordplay. We hope you’re ready to take your investigation skills to the next level. You could win a year’s membership to Slate Plus.
Do you have any language questions or fun facts to share? Email us at  
Produced by Jasmine Ellis. 
Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:
Ben’s Wall Street Journal column on “Omicron” as the name of the new Covid variant
Ben’s 2020 Atlantic piece on how geographic labels for diseases can encourage xenophobia 
Ben’s Slate piece on the puzzling legacy of Stephen Sondheim
New US edition of The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book by Alex Bellos 
Amanda Ripley’s podcast, “How To!” 
Subscribe to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month. To learn more, go to
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit