Monday 15 March 2021

Omega and Big Charlie



Sometimes an etymology is so obvious that I can't believe that I've never noticed it, and I marvel at my own duncedom.

The Greek letter omega, as in alpha and omega, was just the big O, the mega-O, O-mega. The shorter O in the Greek alphabet is called called omicron, or small O. 

I am/was able to recite the whole Greek alphabet, and I had never noticed.

Another hidden big is Charlemagne, who wasn't really called Charlemagne. He was just a big Charlie. Well, to be precise he was Carl the Great, that was written in Latin as Carolus Magnus and that ended up as Charlemagne

Big Charlie was the son of Pepin the Short, who is still just known as Pepin the Short. Oddly enough Pepin the Short wasn't actually short; he just had short hair. But that will never change the way I think of him, just as I shall always think of John of Gaunt as a pale, bony man. 

Pepin the Short's dad was Charles Martel, except he wasn't really. He was called Charles, and he was nicknamed The Hammer, which, in French, is martel. His influence lives on in the work of the modern poet Stanley Kirk Burrell, who is almost universally known as MC Hammer. 

MC is short for Master of Ceremonies. As as shortening it's first recorded in 1790:

It was Tyson's Benefit, and as he is my acquaintance, independent of being M:C:, it was but decent that at least one of us should appear there.

Master is a much older word. It goes back to the Old English maegester, which goes back to the Latin magister (literally meaning bigger one), which is cognate with the Greek mega, which is why omega just means Big O.

Defeated the Umayyad invasion of Aquitaine

N.B. Some people say that MC stands for Mic Controller. They are silly people.


  1. Welp. I just slapped my forehead clean OFF.

  2. I really enjoy your blog! Have you another book on the way?

  3. It's my birthday today and I was today years old when I learned that Big-O-3 vitamins sounds less formidable than omega 3.