Conceptual Metaphors: ‘Eurocrats Living in the Brussels Bubble’

  • Jonathan Charteris-BlackEmail author


In this chapter the metaphors of Brexit are analysed using conceptual metaphor theory. I compare two different conceptual metaphors: containment metaphors and game related metaphors. A common conceptual metaphor for Leave supporters was BOUNDARIES ARE CONTAINERS and its implications: SUPPORTERS ARE THOSE IN THE CONTAINER and OPPONENTS ARE THOSE OUTSIDE THE CONTAINER which corresponds with the moral foundation of Loyalty/Betrayal. I illustrate how containment metaphors convey positive evaluations of entities construed as within the container, so THE NATION IS A SHIP has very positive evaluations of those who are on HMS Britain. Conversely, when negatively construed, the conceptual metaphor CONTAINERS ARE BOUNDED SPACES represents containers such as the EU, or echo chambers and media bubbles as oppressive entities that constrain the freedom of the supporters trapped within the container. This conceptual metaphor corresponds with the moral foundations of Liberty/Oppression and Care/Harm. Ultimately it was the CONTAINER of Brexit itself that proved to be a BOUNDED SPACE. Having clambered down into the dark hole of Brexit, the British Body Politic found itself in a deep and dark hole from which whatever efforts it made to clamber out served only to push it further back into the hole. As regards game-related metaphors, The POLITICS IS A GAME conceptual metaphor activated a frame with roles for: competition, skill, guile, cunning and strategy; it was employed especially by leaders of the Leave campaign and corresponded with the moral foundation of Fairness/Cheating.


  1. Charteris-Black, J. (2006). Britain as a Container: Immigration Metaphors in the 2005 Election Campaign. Discourse & Society 17, 6: 563–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Charteris-Black, J. (2017). Competition Metaphors & Ideology: Life as a Race. In R. Wodak and B. Forchtner (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Politics (pp. 202–217). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  4. Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Musolff, A. (2016). Political Metaphor Analysis: Discourse and Scenarios. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Reddy, M.J. (1979). The Conduit Metaphor: A Case of Frame Conflict in Our Language About Language. In A. Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and Thought (pp. 284–310). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Shipman, T. (2016). All Out War. London: Collins.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and EducationUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations