Elisa Mattiello University of Pisa ”Figuration and obesity: Warning bells from TheGuardian.com.”


This study investigates the use of figuration in online articles related to the topic of the obesity epidemic. By using SketchEngine software tools, it analyses a corpus collected from TheGuardian.com (2009-2019) with the aim of identifying the figures of speech that are used to disseminate health information to non-experts. While a quantitative analysis of the key words collocating with the lemma obesity shows its relevance to health problems and diseases, such as diabetes, heart attacks, or depression, a qualitative analysis of figurative language in the corpus demonstrates that reporters privilege the use of metaphor, simile, metonymy, and hyperbole to increase individuals’ health literacy and to help people make appropriate decisions related to nutrition, healthy eating, and physical exercise. The prevailing metaphors in the corpus and their related frames emphasise the damaging effects of obesity by triggering its association with ‘destruction’ (obesity time bomb) and ‘death’ (fat, salt and sugar are killers). The study demonstrates how health literacy through the media can raise people’s awareness of the dangerous consequences of obesity and encourage them to ‘fight’ against this epidemic starting from an early age, or to undertake their ‘journey’ towards weight loss with perseverance.

Keywords: figuration, metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, framing, health literacy, obesity.

full text