"Not Soldiers but Fire-fighters" - Metaphors and Covid-19

Health Commun. 2021 Jan;36(1):50-58. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1844989. Epub 2020 Nov 10.


Metaphors have been widely used in communication about the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus has been described, for example, as an "enemy" to be "beaten," a "tsunami" on health services and even as "glitter" that "gets everywhere." This paper discusses different metaphors for the pandemic, and explains why they are used and why they matter. War metaphors are considered first, as they were particularly frequent and controversial at the beginning of the pandemic. An overview of alternative metaphors is then provided, drawing from the "#ReframeCovid" crowd-sourced multilingual collection of metaphors for Covid-19. Finally, based on both the #ReframeCovid collection and a systematic analysis of a large corpus of news articles in English, it is suggested that Fire metaphors are particularly appropriate and versatile in communication about different aspects of the pandemic, including contagion and different public health measures aimed at reducing it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Armed Conflicts
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Fires
  • Health Communication / methods*
  • Humans
  • Metaphor*
  • Natural Disasters
  • Pandemics
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2