Speaking of disease and death

Kathryn Burridge, Reka Agnes Benczes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter investigates the euphemistic language use associated with disease—in particular, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and mental illness—and death. Fear and superstition have enjoyed a long attachment to our beliefs surrounding disease and death; the challenge of confronting the biological limits of our own bodies have brought forth a vast repository of euphemistic language in connection with both subjects. This euphemistic language heavily relies on metaphorical conceptualizations in order to best achieve the displacement effect. By examining the figurative language related to disease and death, the chapter also explores whether the metaphorical conceptualizations merely reflect our ways of thinking about illnesses and death, or whether they can change or control our attitudes to possible health risks and what choices we can make to avert them.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Taboo Words and Language
EditorsKeith Allan
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780198808190
ISBN (Print)9780198808190
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Cancer
  • Death
  • Disease
  • Euphemism
  • Mental illness
  • Metaphor

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