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 …

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 …

Mutant words

I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on this sunny morning of the 19th of December when I heard the phrase ‘mutant strain’, used in reference to a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is apparently spreading in the South East. My ears twitched of course, as they did with ‘mutant …

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’ …

Sleepwalking into pandemic polarisation

I was musing about emerging talk of a division between experts when it comes to dealing with Covid-19. This has been in the air for a while but came more to the fore after the publication of two open letters by two groups of experts. As an article in the British Medical Journal, entitled tellingly …

Dimmer switches and circuit breakers

Since the beginning of this pandemic I have been writing blog posts charting the metaphors used to think and talk about it. Most of these metaphors are based on well-known experiences of floods, storms, wars and journeys – or air, water, earth and fire. However, I have recently noticed some other metaphors which are a …

Metaphors and realities: Coronavirus and climate change

We have been surrounded by global disasters this year, inflicted on us by ‘invisible enemies’. These invisible enemies have been made visible in two ways. In the case of the pandemic, disaster metaphors related to floods, fire and storms have made the coronavirus visible. In case of climate change, real floods, fires, storms and droughts …