‘It is completely ok to give up a little sometimes’: Metaphors and Normality in Swedish Cancer Talk

Anna W Gustafsson, Charlotte Hommerberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The clichéd conceptualization of cancer illness as a battle, which the patient can either win or lose, can be problematic. For patients referred to palliative care, it can cause feelings of guilt and failure. This framing of cancer, here referred to as ‘the battle script’, has been questioned in previous research, and there seems to be awareness among health practitioners that battle metaphors should be avoided. The aim of this paper is to shed light on this battle script by examining the discursive dynamics of metaphor use in a large corpus of Swedish blogs written by terminally ill patients. The study focuses on two common linguistic metaphors, kämpa [fight/struggle] and ge upp [give up]. These expressions have the potential to actualize the battle script, but do not necessarily do so, due to their ambiguous meanings. By analyzing the contextualized meaning of these two metaphors, we illustrate the normality of the battle script as well as the problem to handle the perceived normativity of the script. We also discuss discursive strategies used by the bloggers to handle the negative implications of the battle script.
Translated title of the contributionDet är helt ok att ge upp lite ibland: metaforer och normalitet i svenska samtal om cancer
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
  • Other Health Sciences

Free keywords

  • metaphor
  • palliative care
  • cancer
  • battle script
  • normativity


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