That language can model the way of thinking and social behavior are people who begin to understand it later.
In fact, shortly after the pandemic began, messages comparing the situation to war and the defeat of the virus to an enemy began to circulate.
But beyond the problems of that specific image, “the misuse of a metaphor, whatever it may be, is counterproductive; it obscures other perspectives,” he explains. Paula Perez SobrinoCognitive Linguist at the University of La Rioja.
“Misuse of a metaphor, whatever it may be, is counterproductive. It obscures other points of view”
Paula Perez Sobrino, University of La Rioja
she was one of the people responsible for #reframecovidAn initiative that emerged as a collective dialogue Twitter In which hundreds of alternative metaphors were collected. Attempts to expand the landscape, to illuminate other areas, and which have recently culminated in an article analyzing the creativity and value of many of them. Because the worst is over, but, as expected, the virus is still here. As is the language.
against the abuse of war
The onset of the pandemic meant a sudden change, a new and unknown reality that brought about gradual measures to be adopted. The political class was aware of the importance of language in influencing behaviour, and many opted for a war-like comparison from the outset. did Pedro Sanchez in Spain, but also Giuseppe Conte in Italy, boris johnson in the United Kingdom or the same director of the World Health Organization.
did this too Emmanuel Macron When in France he said: “We are at war, a health war. We are not fighting against any army or any other country. But the enemy is, invisible, invincible, spreading. And this requires our general mobilization Is.”
“War metaphors can be useful in the beginning, because they are a way Very straightforward to understand the situation and the measures taken”, comments ines olzao, researcher of linguistics at the University of Navarra. But “when a metaphor is misused, whatever it is, linguists get upset.”
In the specific case of the context of war, various problems arise. On the one hand, “it points to a framework of extreme action that goes against what we were asked, which was to stay home, a non-doing,” Olza explains.
Furthermore, “its logic refers to an abrupt end – when we knew the pandemic was going to run in the medium term – that does not particularly favor reconciliation and generates concern”.
“War signs are an old story,” admits Perez-Sobrino. These are often used in connection with climate change or cancer, in which Lucha It is a universal word. In the latter case, although it may be useful to some, and although Perez-Sobrino emphasizes that the problem is “not use, but abuse”, some studies has observed that metaphor increases the feeling of guilt. Therefore, “metaphorical menus” have already been proposed for people with cancer, which allow them to avoid frank comparisons, if they so desire.
A similar idea was behind the #ReframeCovid initiative (rethink covid) almost born Coincidentally, From a tweet Ines Olza herself asked to look for new metaphors that would help the population. The conversation escalated, and Paula Perez Sobrino as proposed This tab for sorting contributions.
The idea was that they were alternative metaphors for the idea of conflict and war and that they were being circulated through networks and media with more or less success. In the end, over 550 metaphors were collected in over 30 different languages.
a study of creativity
An article was published late last year with the idea and main results of this initiative. Another has recently come to light, selecting and analyzing creative and original metaphors that incorporate an imaginative rationality and, as he says in his study, “what we know and Can narrow the distance between what we want to know. Strange becomes familiar to us or, conversely, brings a new angle to what is close to us. Creative metaphors can provide new perspectives on our experiences and thus can shape new discourses and social practices.
that allows for originality or creativity stretch sensation, according to Olza, and can be divided into two types: metaphors that use areas of language already diligently in others, but involve a new vision or nuance; And those that use generally unused concepts.
“The metaphor of the active hero, which was applied to the toilets, creates a distortion of expectations. With him you start expecting extraordinary acts or even sacrifices”
Ines Olza, University of Navarrese
Within the first group, there were many who resorted to the concepts of Travel You Play, The latter, although they may indicate conflict or confrontational rhetoric, are “useful to highlight teamwork, and although some features may refer to war, they represent a stylization., A channeling of a contradictory nature”, emphasizes Olza.
There are two examples that these linguists highlight in this group. The first metaphor is used by a television presenter on Al Arabiya TV to explain the high number of infections in the US: “The The Corona train crossed the whole world, but it made a long stop at the station in the United States. The concept of train travel is traditional, but not of its long stops, which in this case is not so much a problem for passengers as it is for residents of the city where it stops.
another example is favorite one of the authors, and it was written by the Italian commentator paolo costa in a portal blog Week To the title: “Coronavirus Emergency: Not Soldiers But Firefighters.” Although fire is also a traditional reference, here it is novel, as it is described as a giant co-operative enterprise, For Olza, it’s a great metaphor, “because it associates the unexpected with a certain ability to control.” Facing a rise in infections, “it refers to cooperation and includes medium and long-term, unlike war, because the fire can be rekindled.”
On the other hand, the metaphors of the second group indicate a greater degree of creativity and avoid Loss of strength which includes continued use of more traditional ones. There’s a note published in a Norwegian newspaper: “If you’re going to be a hero these days, you’ve got to act like a hedgehog. Don’t roar like a lion or fight like a monster, but curl up and wait for better times.” Do it.” This contrast, he explains, “causes a The constructive tension that invites us to reconsider the value of remaining patience and calm as an act of heroism and resistance in times of pandemic.
“Comparing the brightness of coronavirus was very useful to explain to the children and make them aware about hand washing. Because there are metaphors that exclude different sections of the population”
Paula Perez Sobrino, University of La Rioja
the metaphor of the active hero, which also has some war-like connotations, was widely applied for sanitationbut “even the majority rejected it”, confirms Olza: “It distorts expectations, it is harmful and somewhat dehumanizing. It acts as a punctual reinforcement could, but you start waiting Extraordinary act or sacrifice. The demand for toilets meant that people should stay at home. They did not want to be heroes, but cooperation and reinforcement.
One of the chosen metaphors is the one who said: “Coronavirus is like glitter: even when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, it reappears in unexpected places.” It is a comparison that “may seem a bit frivolous”, Perez Sobrino admits, but given the discomfort of war images in children “it was very useful to convince them and make them aware of washing their hands; because There are metaphors that exclude different sections of the population”.
Language and Metaphor: Thought and Action
If anyone popularized the importance of language in thought, it was the linguist. George Lakoff, He . was the promoter of Frame theory, the mental structures that shape our way of seeing the world and which rely heavily on language and metaphors.
This is the exercise he applies to explain it: “Don’t think about the elephant. Whatever you do, don’t think about the elephant. I haven’t found a student capable of doing that yet. Each word is a frame.” which may be an image or other form of knowledge: elephants are large, have dangling ears and a trunk; they are associated with circuses, etc. When we reject a frame, we Open the frame.
“It’s hard to know the importance of the war metaphor, but its misuse can encourage surveillance behavior, the famous Balcony Police”
Paula Perez Sobrino, University of La Rioja
is known How the most conservative forces in America spent a great deal of time and money creating a framework that served their ideas. From there came words and slogans like tax relief (Relief for whom?), Free Trade Agreement (Free for whom?) death tax (instead of inheritance tax) or the same Climate changeWhich, according to their own reports, seemed “less scary than global warming”.
“The study that is commonly used to illustrate the importance of metaphors in thought was done at Stanford University,” explains Perez Sobrino. In this task hundreds of volunteers were given two lessons to read on the problem of crime. In one of them he was compared to an animal; In another, with a virus.
When asked about measures to control it, “Those who read the first lesson opted for more punitive and coercive measures. Those who read second pay more attention to prevention and pedagogy”, completes the linguist. “It’s like the image where someone drops their keys and sees them in an area lit only by a streetlight. Each metaphor illuminates some areas and obscures others”.
In the case of war and Covid-19, Perez Sobrino believes the image could have contributed to the division. “Its importance is difficult to know, but the misuse of metaphor can encourage the behavior of alertness, the famous Balcony Police Who stigmatized people for their behavior or even their work. In addition, this type of messaging can “raise anxiety,” making it difficult for some people to adapt to the latter reality.
There are hardly any studies on its effect, but a survey was published in the US in the magazine jama network open Among other things, it was found that fictional warfare did not work well and civilians preferred concepts such as protocol before this Order,
An early analysis on the subject by Perez Sobrino’s group indicates that “military structures may be useful to certain segments of the population, such as men aged 40–45 years; however, this is the case for children and youth or women.” I’m not.”
The pandemic attributed the language to a reality that was affecting the entire planet for the first time around the world. And then it evolved with him, adapting with more or less delay and amplitude to his circumstances and gravity. Are we now more aware of its importance?
“I think it made us more considerate in general,” Olza says. “More aware of our civic responsibility, but also of the limitations and opportunities that language offers us,” he concluded. Those words weigh, that they were serious.