Metaphors have helped us understand the pandemic. But they can also create confusion and complacency
An enemy, a mugger, a tsunami, a fire, a race, and even glitter that gets everywhere: just a few of the metaphors used to describe different aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic since it began in early 2020.
Whether consciously or not, people often use metaphor to talk and think about complex, abstract and sensitive subjects. Time, illness and the climate crisis are prime examples of concepts that may be explained through clearcut, accessible imagery. Allusions to journeys, fights and sport help us make sense of things that would otherwise be inexpressible or unknowable. In my research, I have shown how metaphors are central to our understanding of the experience of cancer, chronic pain and mental illness.