March 11, 2023


No, I am not interested in the insane pronouncements by a reputed government insider that has ensorcelled weak-minded so-called conservatives and thereby threatened the Republic. I am not interested in a person, real or imagined, at all. This post is actually about the letter Q.

In English, Q has led a rather forlorn existence. It is the second least used letter of our 26-letter alphabet; only Z occurs less often. (Q and Z, alone among the letters, are worth 10 points in Scrabble.) In English words not borrowed from other languages. Q is invariably followed by U. Naked Qs occur most often in borrowings from unrelated languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese.

When I was in elementary school, I was told that a solitary Q only occurs in the name “Iraq.” Lately, however, Qs are showing up in a surprising number of pharmaceutical names. These include Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo among others.

I have no idea why drug companies have suddenly become enamored of such a rarely-used letter. Are they trying to increase its pathetic usage statistics? Has Q somehow become cool (or are manufacturers trying to make it cool)? Naked Qs in medicine names is an odd trend not limited to one company. Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo are all marketed by different firms. Are they each using the same consultants to come up with new names for drugs?

One can appreciate the difficulty in naming new drugs. Names need to be pronounceable, reasonably concise—a three-syllable name like Cibinqo is pushing it—and not a word, particularly an objectionable word, in any foreign language. Names should be catchy, however you might define that. Pharmaceutical names sometimes suggest, at least vaguely, what they might be used for. Flonase and Claritin, for example, are allergy medications. Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo do not himt at how they might be used. Rinvoq claims to be a treatment for ailments as diverse as eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, so there’s an obvious problem there. 

But why all the Qs. In every medicine name I have encountered, the Q is sounded like a K and could easily be replaced with a K. Why do we not have Rinvok (or Rinvoke), Kiskali (or even Kiscali, which would sound the same), or Cibinko? I have no idea. This seems to be novelty for novelty’s sake.

I do hope this trend does not continue. Children have enough trouble with spelling without confusing them further.


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