It’s like being hit by a tsunami: The use of the NATURAL FORCE metaphor for conceptualising the COVID-19 pandemic in English and Serbian
Many different metaphors have been used so far in public health communication to capture different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic since they serve as an apt instrument in crisis discourse of conveying important messages to various audiences in a simple and easily understandable manner. Within the theoretical framework of Critical Metaphor Analysis (Charteris-Black, 2004, 2005, 2019; Musolff, 2004, 2006, 2016) and drawing on the data gathered during the period 2020-2021 from various British/American and Serbian online news media (The Financial Times, The Guardian, CNN, The Economist, Blic, NovaS, Novosti), we explore the strategic and arguably deliberate use of the natural force metaphor as an effective instrument in public health communication discourse concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Our main aim is to demonstrate the universal power of this metaphor in channeling the general public’s perceptions and behaviour into a desired direction in crisis communication, independent of the language or culture in which the crisis discourse is produced. This power is attested in this metaphor’s strong emotional and evaluative contents – it serves both to communicate a sense of danger, uncertainty and threat coming from the virus, as well as to legitimise the wanted course of action and conceal the responsibility of government officials and health experts by shifting all the blame for possible inefficiencies of anti-epidemic measures solely on the allegedly uncontrollable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.