A Toxic Crisis: Metaphorizing the Financial Crisis

Adina Nerghes, Iina Hellsten, Peter Groenewegen


The recent financial crisis has been covered in newspapers with metaphors such as toxic assets and toxic loans. Although these groups of related metaphors (i.e., metaphor families) may strengthen the intended images on the topic under discussion, they have been only seldom studied in metaphor research. This article investigates the ways in which metaphor families fulfill a translator role for emerging terminology in financial discourses. We explore the expansion and evolution of the toxic metaphor family, revealing subtle changes of metaphor use in three newspapers over time. Our results show a transition from generic image-creating metaphors toward financial-instrument-targeted metaphors. Overall, the evidence brought by this study is a stepping-stone for further research on metaphor families.


metaphor, semantic networks, financial crisis, structural space

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