A new variant in covid speak

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Reynolds alerted me to an interesting new variant in covid speak, a metaphor used by the Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam in the context of talking about vaccines and variants (a variant is a virus with one or two mutations). As reported by CBC on March …

From covidiots to vaxxies: How our pandemic language changed over a year

When the pandemic started in early 2020, I began to record some of the changes in our language that this global upheaval brought with it. The language of war was everywhere, a type of language that we are quite used to from other health emergencies. But a new language also began to emerge. We started …

Naming without shaming: A virus communication conundrum

We have all heard about the Kent strain of the coronavirus, or the UK or English strain for that matter, or the South African strain, or the Brazilian strain, not to forget the despicable references to the China or Wuhan virus by a former president of the United States. It’s good that we know about …

Mutation, vaccination, communication

It is extremely difficult to keep up with pandemic news at the moment. We are now a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and instead of just running away from the virus through social distancing, we are now engaging in a race with it through vaccination. Whether we will win the race depends on how many …

Vaccines: Between hope and hesitancy

I was listening to the BBC Today programme on Saturday morning (30 January, 2020), becoming rather depressed about the current vaccine row, when I heard Nick Robinson talk about something I had wondered about: the absence of happy vaccination cards – a real gap in the greeting cards market. I had used an online card …

Lockdown fatigue: A tale of two discourses

A while ago I wrote a brief post on ‘lockdown words’, amongst them ‘lockdown fatigue’. At the time I hadn’t noticed all the other quasi-synonyms, apart from ‘lockdown lethargy’. Over time more words crept past my horizon: behavioural fatigue, pandemic fatigue, isolation fatigue, quarantine fatigue and so on. In the UK, we are now in …

Genetics and genomics – when metaphors begin to matter

I remember in the not so distant past standing in the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge admiring the huge sequencing machines and chatting about public engagement with colleagues before giving a talk about genomics and metaphors. I also remember writing some things about gene editing and metaphor. In my mind all this related to basic …

An injection of metaphors

I hadn’t intended to write a blog post this week. So this is only an attempt to not let an important episode in the Covid and metaphor saga pass by without recording it for posterity. Others will have to do the difficult work of actually analysing what was going on. On 9 November, Monday afternoon, …

The social and metaphorical life of viruses

Metaphors are an essential part of science, from doing basic science to engaging in popular science communication. They can be used sporadically; they can be used more systematically to conceptualise a topic, for example the structure and function of DNA; or they can be used in a veritable firework sprinkled across one article. I once …

Firebreak

About a month ago, when I thought the government was about to announce a ‘circuit breaker’, I wrote a blog post about that metaphor. Now the Welsh government has announced a circuit breaker but has called it a ‘fire break’. That means that I now have to write a quick post about the ‘fire break’ …