A tale of two swamps: Transformations of a metaphorical frame in online partisan media

C.F. Burgers, Melanie Jong Tjien Fa, Anneke de Graaf

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Politicians often use metaphors to frame their political agendas, such as President Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.” We examine how such metaphorical frames are transformed in partisan media (conservative, liberal). Results demonstrate that the “drain the swamp” metaphor is used in three ways: (1) without transformation, to paraphrase, explain and/or evaluate a statement by a political actor, (2) with transformation of the target, which occurs either through narrowing or recasting and (3) with transformation of the source. These source transformations follow narrative rules constrained by story grammar, and entail the transformation of (a) an event into a state, (b) changing a specific event, (c) adding characters and/or objects, (d) an alternative ending and/or (e) mixed metaphor. We show why and how some strategies are used by both partisan groups, while others are used by one group only, resulting in a different meaning of the same metaphor across partisan media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Framing
  • Metaphor
  • Online partisan media
  • Polarization
  • Political communication
  • Political discourse


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