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 …

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 …

Loaded language

A lot has been written about the dangers of war metaphors used by politicians during the pandemic. But war metaphors are of course everywhere in political speech, where people fight elections, defeat opponents, battle against the odds. It is almost impossible to think about politics without thinking of it as a battle to be won. …

Science, Technology & Culture: In memory of Christopher Johnson (1958-2017)

Almost 20 years ago, I was working at the Institute for Science and Society located in the Law and Social Sciences Building (then called the Institute for the Study of Genetics, Biorisks and Society). I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I must have come across somebody telling me that people were establishing a …

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 …

One day in twitterland: Metaphor, memory and amazement

People have all sorts of opinions about Twitter, but for me, so far, the experience has been positive; never more so than when it comes to ‘interdisciplinarity’. I work across the humanities, social science and natural sciences and follow people from what one may call all walks of science. I also work across science and …

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 …