The Westminster Forum for Language and Linguistics is delighted to announce their annual lecture for 2021 with Professor Veronika Koller of Lancaster University.

The Westminster Forum for Language and Linguistics poster

In this lecture, I first outline different aspects of language use during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as neologisms, and then focus on metaphor. Discussing the multiple functions of metaphor in discourse, I make a case for studying the ways metaphor conceptualises the various aspects of the pandemic, including the coronavirus, infections, government measures and their consequences, and vaccination.

The second part of the talk introduces the #ReframeCovid initiative that started in March 2020 in order to crowdsource alternatives to the war metaphors so prevalent in public discourses on Covid-19 in different contexts around the world. I provide details on how the initiative started and developed, and what metaphors are most frequent among its ca. 500 examples from about 30 languages. This discussion also addresses how cultural and political context can influence the choice of metaphor.

In the final part of the lecture, I present insights from multidisciplinary metaphor studies to argue what makes a “good”, ie apt, metaphor for an event as complex and dynamic as a pandemic. In accordance with the title, particular attention will be given to metaphors of war, natural disasters and fire. I conclude with a brief discussion of what the Covid-19 case can tell us about communication and language use during public health crises.


Olza, I., Koller, V., Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I., Pérez Sobrino, P., & Semino, E. (forthcoming). The #ReframeCovid initiative: From Twitter to society via metaphor. Metaphor and the Social World.

Semino, E. (2021). “Not soldiers but fire-fighters”: Metaphors and Covid-19. Health Communication, 36(1), 50-58.

Register for this free event on Eventbrite.