Words as Powerful Weapons: Dysphemism in Trump’s Covid-19 Speeches

Sameer Naser Olimat


Covid-19 pandemic constitutes the greatest threat to the worldwide population and countries nowadays. Donald Trump, the president of the greatest country in the world, has frequently received heavy criticism as a result of his language use in the period of Covid-19. Therefore, the present paper examines dysphemistic expressions used in Trump’s discourse on Covid-19. A sample of dysphemistic examples adopted in Trump’s daily speeches in a crucial week of 11th till 18th of March 2020 was analysed. The researcher relied on the Critical-political Discourse Analysis by Van Dijk (1997; 2001), Conceptual Metaphor theory by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), and the concept of dysphemism by Allan and Burridge (2006). It has been found that Trump referred to strong language and war metaphors to defend himself and his point of view, to shape Americans’ thoughts and views, or to attack other countries or institutions. Several conceptual metaphors, including Covid-19 is a) an invisible enemy, b) a foreign enemy, c) a dangerous threat, and d) a global battle, were commonly used. The data analysis shows that Trump has a linguistic mastery of eloquent and persuasive devices in political discourse which permitted him to make a shift in Americans’ thoughts and opinions. For future research, the current paper suggests investigating Trump’s paralinguistic features in speeches, such as body language, facial expressions, tone and pitch of voice, eye movements, and hand gestures.


Keywords: Dysphemism; Metaphor; Discourse Analysis; Covid-19; Donald Trump

Full Text:



Alexandrescu, L. (2014). Mephedrone, assassin of youth: the rhetoric of fear in contemporary drug scares. Crime, Media, Culture. 10(1), 23-37.

Ali, M. (2018). Political diplomatic tone in presidential inauguration address of the USA President Donald Trump: a critical discourse analysis. M.A thesis, Alandalus University, Republic of


Allan, K. & Burridge, K. (1991). Euphemism and dysphemism. Language used as shield and weapon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allan, K. & Burridge, K. (2006). Forbidden words: taboo and the censoring of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Amine, D. (2017). Interpretation of discourse markers in Trump’s political speeches. Case study: The function of the markers so, anyway, you know in Trump’s selected speeches. M.A

thesis, University of Mostaganem, Algeria.

Angeli, E. (2012). Metaphors in the rhetoric of pandemic flu: Electronic media coverage of H1N1 and swine flu. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 42(3), 203-222.

Balteiro, I. (2017). Metaphor in Ebola’s popularised scientific discourse. Ibérica. 34, 209-230.

Charteris-Black, J. (2005). Politicians and rhetoric. The persuasive power of metaphor. Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020). United States COVID-19 cases and deaths by state. Retrieved from https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Coleman, M. P. (2013). War on cancer and the influence of the medical-industrial complex. Journal of Cancer Policy. 1(3-4), e31-e34.

Crespo-Fernández, E. (2007). El eufemismo y el disfemismo. Procesos de manipulación del tabú en el lenguaje literario inglés Alicante: Universidad.

Crespo-Fernández, E. (2013). Words as weapons for mass persuasion: dysphemism in Churchill’s wartime speeches. Text & Talk. 33(3), 311-330.

Crespo-Fernández, E. (2015). Sex in language: Euphemistic and dysphemistic metaphors in internet forums. London and New York: Bloomsbury

Dochy, A. (2018). Speaking “transgressive truth”: Assessing the political extremism of Donald Trump’s campaign discourse during the 2015/2016 US presidential pre-primaries and

primaries. M.A thesis, Utrecht University, Netherlands.

Dylgjeri, A. (2017). Analysis of speech acts in political speeches. European Journal of Social Sciences Studies. 2(2), 19-26.

Enli, G. S. (2017). Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: Exploring the social media campaigns of Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. European Journal of

Communication. 32(1), 50-61.

Enright, D. (2004). In other words. London: Michael O´Mara Books Limited.

Jeon, H. & Yu, H. (2016). Metaphor and ideological implications for MERS. Korean Studies. 72, 99-225.

Joye, S. (2010). News discourses on distant suffering: A critical discourse analysis of the 2003 SARS outbreak. Discourse & Society. 21(5), 586-601.

Kövecses, Z. (2002). Metaphor. A practical introduction. Oxford: Oxford: University Press.

Kövecses, Z. (2005). Metaphor in culture: Universality and variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. & Turner, M. (1989). More than cool reason. a field guide to poetic metaphor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mugair, S. K. (2014). A comparative study of euphemism and dysphemism in English and Arabic with special reference to political discourse. Journal of Advances in Linguistics. 4(1), 259-

Musolff, A. (2014). The metaphor of the “body politic” across languages and cultures. In Polzenhagen, F. Kövecses, Z. Vogelbacher, S. & Kleinke, S. (EDs). Cognitive explorations into

metaphor and metonymy. (pp. 87-99). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Musolff, A. (2016). Political metaphor analysis: Discourse and scenarios. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Olimat, S. N. (2018). Developing a model for translating euphemism in the Qur’an: An intratextual- and contextual-based approach. Advances in Language and Literary Studies. 9(6), 101-

Olimat, S. N. (2019a). Euphemism in the Qur’an: Corpus-based linguistic analysis and intratextual- and contextual-based translation. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Leeds, UK.

Olimat, S. N. (2019b). Euphemism in the Qur’an: A corpus-based linguistic approach. International Journal of Computational Linguistics (IJCL). 10(2), 16-32.

Olimat, S. N. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: Euphemism and dysphemism in Jordanian Arabic. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies. 20(3), 268-290.

Ott, B. L. (2017). The age of Twitter: Donald J. Trump and the politics of debasement. Critical Studies in Media Communication. 34(1), 59-68.

Patrick, W. & Nerlich, B. (2005). Disease metaphors in new epidemics: The UK media framing of the 2003 SARS epidemic. Social Science & Medicine. 60, 2629-2639.

Shin, J. (2016). Metaphorical analogies for ‘MERS’ in Korean newspaper headlines. Discourse and Cognition. 23(2), 51-19.

Tan, K.H., Woods, P., Azman, H., Abdullah, I. H., Hashim, R. S., Abdul Rahim, H., Idrus, M. M., Said, N. E. M., Lew, R., & Kosem, I. (2020). COVID-19 insights and linguistic methods. 3L:

The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies. 26(2), 1-23

Trčková, D. (2015). Representations of Ebola and its victims in liberal American newspapers. Topics in Linguistics. 16, 29-41.

Van Dijk, T. A. (1997). What is political discourse analysis? In Blommaert, J. & Bulcaen, C. (EDs.). Political linguistics. (pp. 11-52). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2001). Critical discourse analysis. In Schiffrin, D. Tannen, D. & Hamilton, H. E. (EDs). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (pp. 352-371). Oxford: Blackwell.

World Health Organisation (WHO). (2020). COVID-19 press briefing. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.



DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17576/3L-2020-2603-02


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157