Metaphors of COVID-19

A seminar by Elena Semino (Lancaster University)

  • Date: 01 OCTOBER 2021  dalle 11:00 alle 13:00

  • Event location: Online – Teams

  • Type: Seminars

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Since the beginning of the current pandemic, Covid-19 has been talked about through metaphors, for example as an enemy to be beaten, a marathon to be completed, and a tsunami overwhelming health services. Some of these metaphors have proved controversial, however. For example, war metaphors – such as ‘the battle against Covid-19’ – have been criticised for potentially causing excessive anxiety. And the metaphor of multiple ‘waves’ of the pandemic has been described as inaccurate, because, in the words of a representative of the World Health Organization: ‘We are in the first wave. There is going to be one big wave’. In this talk, I discuss how different metaphors have been used to communicate about different aspects of the pandemic, and why it matters that metaphors are used sensitively and effectively. I suggest that many different metaphors are needed for a complex and long-term phenomenon such as a global pandemic, but I also discuss ways in which the appropriateness and usefulness of different metaphors can be assessed.