Plain Speech and Death Metaphors in Times of Crisis

“Life or Death” by Riccardo Maria Mantero is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Maria Karidakis
School of Languages and Linguistics

Barbara Kelly
School of Languages and Linguistics


Jay Ryder
Asia Institute

Project description

The advent of COVID-19 has seen an increase in discussion in social media and popular press about the way that people talk about death and dying. This study investigates the use of ‘death’ and associated ‘end-of-life’ metaphors in discussions prior to and with respect to COVID-19.

With information sourced from online data sources such as Twitter and the Guardian Open Platform, the internship assisted with data collection, and automated coding or data tagging as well as visualisation of the data for presentation. We anticipate an increase in discussion of death and the number of direct, non-metaphoric terms, such as ‘death’, ‘dying’, ‘being killed’ that are used, as well a proportional increase in what have been termed more ‘aggressive’ often military-based metaphors, such as ‘ammunition’, ‘frontline’, ‘battle’. Our aim is to show that in times of crisis people are drawn toward clearer less-euphemistic language.

Want to get involved with the Digital Studio internship program? We welcome applications from research students to undertake the internship, and from academics and external organisations interested in hosting an internship and supervising an intern.

Find out more and apply