Immunity debt: Creating and contesting metaphors

This week I am writing a post about my probably last Covid metaphor: immunity debt. What do people mean by that, I wondered? While trying to find out, I became aware of how slippery a concept this is; so I apologise in advance for misunderstandings. In 2021 a French group of researchers published a paper …

Scientists do metaphor

I was idly browsing my Twitter timeline recently (probably for the last time), when my eyes fell on some tweets by Buzz Baum, a cell biologist, saying that he had spoken about metaphor on a BBC radio programme (oh, I thought!) which unfortunately had now been deleted from BBC Sounds (oh no, I thought). He …

Invasion as a metaphor

On 31 of October Suella Braverman, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, said, according to Hansard, the official report of all Parliamentary debates: “The British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast, and which party is not.” ‘Invasion’ is generally defined as the “action of invading …

Resisting metaphors: The case of trickle-down economics

I have recently been corresponding with Ahmed Abdel-Raheem, a metaphor researcher who is developing a theory of metaphor resistance. Ahmed is looking at how producers of metaphors deal with metaphor failure in various ways (denying it was a metaphor, reinterpreting it etc.) and how metaphor audiences or viewers can resist metaphors, be they verbal or …

Monkeypox and metaphors

Again and again, I have come across standard ways of metaphorically framing infectious diseases and their spread, be it foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, swine flu, SARS, Zika, Covid, and now monkeypox. War and invasion metaphors are used abundantly, but also fire, wave and flood metaphors, landscape metaphors like valleys and peaks and much …

Invasion of the covid metaphor

This post is cross-posted from the i-human Covid-19 blog (University of Sheffield). It summarises a chapter I wrote for the book Being Human during Covid-19. I’d like to thank the editors of the book for both inviting me to write the chapter and giving me the opportunity to blog about it. *** As Milan Kundera said in …

The dance of creation and the music of the stars

Everybody will now have seen pictures of the cosmos beamed down to earth by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). These images provoked admiration, awe and wonder – they were indeed sublime. In this post won’t explore these cosmic images themselves but some of the language that was used to talk about them. Deep field …

Gene drive in the press: Between responsible research and responsible communication

Gene drive is a controversial genetic engineering technique that allows scientists to modify genes so that they quickly spread through a population without following the typical rules of heredity; this can include genes that are of no benefit to the plant or animal involved. Research into gene drives has accelerated since 2015 when another new …

The sky is falling and the trees are crying: Reflections on extreme weather

For some weeks now, I wanted to write something about ‘rain bombs’, a relatively new weather/climate phenomenon and metaphor – but I didn’t get round to it. Then, last week, when I sat down to write, thoughts about strong rain were displaced by thoughts about fire and heat. In the end I decided to write …

Understanding metaphors in the life sciences – a book review

I recently wrote a review of a fascinating little book, Understanding Metaphors in the Life Sciences, by Andrew Reynolds. It appeared as part of the rather excellent series Understanding Life, published by Cambridge University Press and should be read in conjunction with another book in the series by Kostas Kampourakis entitled Understanding Genes, which came …