April 2, 2021, by Brigitte Nerlich

Metaphors, metaphors, metaphors

Recently somebody asked me something about metaphor and I thought to myself, what the heck do you know about metaphor? Actually, not an awful lot, given all the stuff I have written about it, or rather the stuff that I have written which involves some sort of reference to metaphor. So, I started to make a list. Then I had to order that list. And here I present you with that ordered list. Make of it what you will.

Although I originally studied French literature, I didn’t do much metaphor research then. I did a little bit when I studied the history of French semantics and pragmatics and then the history of semantics and pragmatics in general. Then I moved more definitely into cognitive linguistics which is basically the study of metaphor (metonymy, polysemy etc.). But metaphor only came into my work on a grand scale when I applied metaphor analysis to controversies in science and medicine – and this work only happened because I collaborated with many brilliant people who put up with me!

I should have put in hyperlinks for everything, but that would have been too much staring at a computer screen. If you are interested in anything, please just put the title into Google Scholar and you should get access or not. If not, email me.

French literature

Nerlich, B. (1989). La lumière, une métaphore millénaire face à la modernité. J.V. No 9 [Newsletter of the ‘Centre de Documentation Jules Verne’, Amiens], 1er Trimestre, 10-22.

History of linguistics

Nerlich, B. (1991). Heinz Werner’s (1890-1963) – psychological approach to metaphor, expressivity and semantic change. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft 1(1), 19-38.

Nerlich, B. (1998). La métaphore et le métonymie: Aux sources rhétoriques des théories sémantiques modernes. Sémiotiques 14, 143-170.

Nerlich, B. (1999). Conceptualisations métaphoriques de la sémantique sous l’influence des sciences naturelles et sociales modernes. French Studies 53(4), 444-458.

Nerlich, B. and Clarke, D. D. (2001). Mind, meaning, and metaphor: The philosophy and psychology of metaphor in nineteenth-century Germany. History of the Human Sciences 14(2), 39-61.

Nerlich, B. and Clarke, D. D. (2002). Blending the past and the present: Conceptual and linguistic integration, 1800-2000. In: Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast, edited by R. Dirven, and R. Pörings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 555-593.

Cognitive linguistics

Zinken, J., Hellsten, I., and Nerlich B. (2003). What is ‘cultural’ about conceptual metaphor. International Journal of Communication 13(1-2), 5-30.

Nerlich, B. (2003). Metáfora, ciencia y medios de comunicación. Panace4.

Zinken, J., Hellsten, I., Nerlich, B. (2008). Discourse metaphors. In: Frank, R. M., Dirven, R., Ziemke, T., Bernardez, E., ed. Body, Language and Mind. vol. 2: Sociocultural situatedness. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 363-386.

Nerlich, B. (2009). Metaphors wanted; dead or alive. In: Language in Life, and a Life in Language: Jacob Mey, A Festschrift (Studies in Pragmatics, 6), ed. by B. Fraser and K. Turner. Bingley: Emerald, 313-318.

Nerlich, B. (2010). Metaphor and metonymy. In: Jucker, A., Taavitsainen, I., eds. Historical Pragmatics. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 193–218

Burkhardt, A. and Nerlich, B. (eds.) (2010). Tropical Truth: The epistemology of metaphor and other tropes. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Tubingen: Niemeyer.

Applied metaphor analysis

Foot and mouth disease

Nerlich, B., Hamilton, C., & Rowe, V. (2002). Conceptualising foot and mouth disease: The socio-cultural role of metaphors, frames and narratives. Metaphorik. de, 2(2002), 90-108. http://www.metaphorik.de/02/nerlich.htm

Nerlich, B. (2004). War on foot and mouth disease in the UK, 2001: Towards a cultural understanding of agriculture. Agriculture and human values21(1), 15-25.

Nerlich, B. (2007). Media, metaphors and modelling: How the UK newspapers reported the epidemiological modelling controversy during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak. Science, Technology and Human Values 32(4), 432-457.

Nerlich, B. (2011). The role of metaphor scenarios in disease management discourses: Foot and mouth disease and avian influenza. Windows to the mind: Metaphor, metonymy and conceptual blending, 115-142.

Nerlich, B. (2009). ‘As if Goya was on hand as a marksman’: Foot and mouth disease as a rhetorical and cultural phenomenon: In: Culture, Rhetoric and the Vicissitudes of Life, ed. by M. Carrithers. New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 87-106.

Avian flu

Nerlich, B. (2011). The role of metaphor scenarios in disease management discourses: Foot and mouth disease and avian influenza. In: Handl, S. and Schmid, H.-J. (eds.). Windows to the Mind: Metaphor, metonymy and conceptual blending (pp. 115-142). De Gruyter Mouton.


Wallis, P. and Nerlich, B. (2005). Disease metaphors in new epidemics: the UK media framing of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Social Science and Medicine 60, 2629-2639.

Larson, B., Nerlich, B. and Wallis, P. (2005). Metaphors and biorisks: The war on infectious diseases and invasive species. Science Communication 26(3), 1-26.


Nerlich, B. (2009). “The post-antibiotic apocalypse” and the “war on superbugs”: catastrophe discourse in microbiology, its rhetorical form and political function. Public Understanding of Science, 18(5), 574-590.

Nerlich, B. and Koteyko, N. (2009). MRSA – Portrait of a Superbug: A media drama in three acts. In: A. Musolff and J. Zinken, eds. Metaphor and Discourse. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 153-172.


Ribeiro, B., Hartley, S., Nerlich, B., & Jaspal, R. (2018). Media coverage of the Zika crisis in Brazil: The construction of a ‘war’ frame that masked social and gender inequalities. Social Science & Medicine, 200, 137-144.


Nerlich, B., Clarke, D. D., & Dingwall, R. (1999). The influence of popular cultural imagery on public attitudes towards cloning. Sociological Research Online, 4(3), 251-261.

Nerlich, B., Clarke, D. D., and Dingwall, R. (2000). Clones and crops: The use of stock characters and word play in two debates about bioengineering. Metaphor and Symbol 15(4), 223-240.

Stem cells

Nerlich, B. (2005). ‘A River Runs Through it’: How the discourse metaphor crossing the Rubicon was exploited in the debate about embryonic stem cells in Germany and (not) the UK: metaphorik.de:  http://www.metaphorik.de/08/nerlich.pdf

Döring, M. and Nerlich, B. (2004). Die metaphorisch-mediale Modellierung von “Stammzellen-Kulturen” in der deutschen und britischen Presseberichterstattung. Zeitschrift für Biopolitik 2, 17-29.


Nerlich, B. and Dingwall, R. (2003). Deciphering the human genome: The semantic and ideological foundations of genetic and genomic discourse. In: Cognitive Models in Language and Thought: Ideology, metaphors and meanings, edited by R. Dirven, R. Frank and M. Pütz. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 395-428.

Nerlich, B. and Hellsten, I. (2004). Genomics: Shifts in metaphorical landscape. New Genetics and Society 23(3), 255-268.

Nerlich, B. (2020). Encounters between Life and Language: Codes, Books, Machines and Cybernetics. Nottingham French Studies, 59(3), 311-332.

Designer babies

Nerlich, B., Johnson, S., & Clarke, D. D. (2003). The first ‘designer baby’’: The role of narratives, clichés and metaphors in the year 2000 media debate. Science as Culture, 12(4), 471-498.


Nerlich, B. and Hellsten, I. (2009). Beyond the human genome: Microbes, metaphors and what it means to be human in an interconnected post-genomic world. New Genetics and Society 28(1), 19-36.

Synthetic biology

Hellsten, I. and Nerlich, B. (2011). Synthetic biology: Building the language for a new science brick by metaphorical brick. New Genetics and Society 30(4), 375-397.

McLeod, C., & Nerlich, B. (2017). Synthetic biology, metaphors and responsibility. Life sciences, society and policy, 13(1), 1-13.


Stelmach, A. and Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphors in search of a target: the curious case of epigenetics. New Genetics and Society. 34(2), 196-218.

Nerlich, B., Stelmach, A., & Ennis, C. (2020). How to do things with epigenetics: An investigation into the use of metaphors to promote alternative approaches to health and social science, and their implications for interdisciplinary collaboration. Social Science Information, 59(1), 59-92.

Genome editing

Martin, P., Morrison, M., Turkmendag, I., Nerlich, B., McMahon, A., de Saille, S., & Bartlett, A. (2020). Genome editing: the dynamics of continuity, convergence, and change in the engineering of life. New Genetics and Society, 39(2), 219-242. [there is a bit on metaphors by me in there]


Nerlich, B. (2012). Biomilitarism and nanomedicine: Evil metaphors for the good of human health. Covalence Magazine, April: http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Faith-Science-and Technology/Covalence/Features/Biomilitarism-and-nanomedicine.aspx

Climate change

Nerlich, B., & Koteyko, N. (2009). Compounds, creativity and complexity in climate change communication: The case of ‘carbon indulgences’. Global Environmental Change, 19(3), 345-353.

Nerlich, B., Evans, V., & Koteyko, N. (2011). Low carbon diet: Reducing the complexities of climate change to human scale. Language and Cognition3(1), 45-82.

Nerlich, B., & Koteyko, N. (2010). Carbon gold rush and carbon cowboys: a new chapter in green mythology?. Environmental Communication4(1), 37-53.

Nerlich, B. (2010). ‘Climategate’: Paradoxical metaphors and political paralysis. Environmental Values 19(4), 419-442.

Nerlich, B. (2012). ‘Low carbon’ metals, markets and metaphors: The creation of economic expectations about climate change mitigation. Climatic Change 110(1-2), 31-51.

Nerlich, B. and Jaspal, R. (2012). Metaphors we die by? Geoengineering, metaphors and the argument for catastrophe. Metaphor and Symbol, 27(2), 131-47.

Nerlich, B. and Jaspal, R. (2013). UK Media representations of carbon capture and storage: Actors, frames and metaphors. Metaphor and the Social World 3, 35–53.

Nerlich, B. and Hellsten, I. (2014). The greenhouse and the footprint: Climate change risk assessment and risk management seen through the lens of two prominent metaphors. TATuP – Journal by ITAS on Technology Assessment. 23(2), 27-33.

Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphors in science and society: The case of climate science and climate scientists. Language and Semiotic Studies 1(2), 1-15.

Shaw, C. and Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphor as a mechanism of global climate change governance: A study of international policies, 1992–2012. Ecological Economics 109, 34-40.


Nerlich, B. (2003). Tracking the fate of the metaphor silent spring in British environmental discourse: Towards an evolutionary ecology of metaphor. Special issue of metaphorik.de on ‘Metaphor and Ecology’, edited by Martin Döring and Wilhelm Trampe. Metaphorik.de: http://www.metaphorik.de/04/nerlich.htm.

Metaphors, biology, science communication and ethics

Nerlich, B., Elliott, R., and Larson, B., eds. (2009). Communicating Biological Sciences: Ethical and metaphorical dimensions. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Nerlich, B. (2009). Breakthroughs and disasters: The (ethical) use of future-oriented metaphors in science communication. In: xx Communicating Biological Sciences: Ethical and Metaphorical Dimensions, 201-218.

Hellsten, I. and Nerlich, B. (2008). Genetics and genomics: The politics and ethics of metaphorical framing. In: Bucchi, M. and Trench, B., ed. Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 93-109.

Coveney, C.M., Nerlich, B., and Martin, P. (2009). Modafinil in the media: Metaphors, medicalisation and the body. Social Science and Medicine 68(3), 487-495.

And: a whole thematic issue deals with synthetic biology and responsible language use, summarised here in this blog post

Over the last few years most of my metaphor energy has gone into my blog posts, where I have scrutinised metaphors in anything from antibiotic resistance to xenobots, with gene editing, gene drive and synthetic biology in between…

Image: Vermeer, Wikimedia Commons

Posted in LanguageMetaphors