Fight the virus, stick with the rules and reduce the peak: An Analysis of the Metaphors Used by Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon to Discuss the COVID-19 Pandemic in Their Official Press Conferences from March to October 2020

Mitchell McKee
2021 Zenodo  
The field of metaphor research has shown that metaphor can shape thought (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980) and affect reasoning (Thibodeau & Boroditsky, 2011), emotion (Hendricks et al., 2018) and behaviour (Hauser & Schwarz, 2015). Recently, this power of metaphor has been applied to investigate how the metaphors used by prominent political leaders frame the COVID-19 pandemic (Semino 2020b). There have been few in-depth studies on the metaphors used by UK politicians, specifically politicians from the
more » ... cottish Government, like Nicola Sturgeon, and those from the UK Government, like Boris Johnson. This study investigates the discourse of these politicians and asks what metaphors they used to discuss the pandemic and if they differed in any way. I extracted the metaphors from a sample corpus of daily press conferences between March and October 2020 using the Metaphor Identification Procedure (Pragglejaz Group, 2007). The results gathered from this process reveal two main conceptual metaphors which are shared by both speakers: THE COVID-19 VIRUS IS A POWERFUL AGENT, which instils the virus with weight and power, and THE PANDEMIC IS A JOURNEY – society is 'moving towards' normality and 'follows' scientific data as a 'guide' to get there. However, there is nuance between the two speakers: Johnson uses much more negatively valanced violence metaphors, such as 'fight' and 'battle', compared to Sturgeon who avoids these violent metaphors and foregrounds defence in words like 'protect'. I discuss the potential effect of these metaphors on public perception of the crisis and avenues for possible future research.
doi:10.5281/zenodo.5796844 fatcat:7dv5ryxsvfeujczpskc7g4myhi