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 …

The meaning of lockdown

The other day, my father in Germany, who is quite old, phoned me and asked what lockdown meant.* ‘Lockdown’ is now used in Germany instead of more native words like ‘Ausgangssperre’ (exit barrier, if you like). He especially wondered about the ‘down’ bit, as he understood the ‘lock’ bit and also had heard about ‘locking …

‘A fire raging’: Why fire metaphors work well for Covid-19

This is a post by Elena Semino, University of Lancaster. It was first published on the website of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) on 1 July, 2020. It provides a thorough and fascinating analysis of fire metaphors used during the pandemic. *** Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, metaphors have been …