The coronavirus: A global metaphor

In cognitive linguistics there is a long-running debate about whether some metaphors are universal or near-universal or whether metaphors are more culture specific. I don’t really want to get into that controversy here, but recent work by Ahmed Abdel-Raheem made me think about it again. In this post I argue that it might be good for …

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 …

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 …

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 …