May I have a word about Omicron and the Disneyfication of Notre Dame

·2 min read

Jon Snow had a brave stab at pronouncing the name of the latest coronavirus variant

So, what was your most controversial event of the past week? The Christmas knees-up last year in Downing Street? Protocols are for little people. The continuing and increasingly tiresome rumbles within the house of Windsor? A period of silence from all interested parties would be welcome.

Sorry, but it was none of those. The most bitterly contested issue was how to pronounce Omicron. Classicists favour emphasis on the second syllable. The BBC and the World Health Organization plump for stressing the first syllable, on the other hand. One thing I think we can all agree on is that it is not as Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow had it last week - “Oh-my-crone”. I am, as always, happy to stand corrected.

Now, what does the phrase “visitor-friendly experience” mean to you? I ask because the refurbishment of the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral includes plans to welcome visitors, upon its completion, with modern art and dignified lighting to achieve just such an effect.

Critics have condemned this as the Disneyfication of a most noble and thrilling building, and I couldn’t agree more. Cathedrals are not theme parks or bouncy play areas. They were conceived as places of wonderment and awe, to uplift the soul and make us feel small at the same time, to remind us of our place on Earth.

Don’t you find the world of academe is getting sillier and sillier? Last week, the University of Aberdeen added to the litany of trigger warnings for nervous Nelly undergraduates. My favourite was: “Includes depictions of murder, death, betrayal and kidnapping.” I would’ve thought the title of the book under discussion - Kidnapped - gave the game away.

• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist

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