Thursday, August 18, 2011

Betta or Beta?

Bob from Glen Arbor asked about the name for a Siamese fighting fish called a beta. Bob wondered why a fish that was really an alpha, or dominant male, would be called a beta.

We got into a discussion of beta. It’s the second letter of the Greek alphabet, and it has come to represent the second in a series, a backup, or a second-generation version. It has been widely used in various sciences, and it is often applied to software that is in a test phase right before universal release.

After the show, I discovered that the preferred spelling is betta, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the Greek alphabet. Instead, it came from a Malay name, ikan bettah.

Never mind.

SIDEBAR: Betta Fish

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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