Cherries on the Cake?

  • Jonathan Charteris-BlackEmail author


In this book I illustrate how metaphor was ‘weaponised’ in discussions surrounding Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and how it contributed to the tone of the Brexit debate. Sometimes this tone has been savage with medieval words such as ‘betrayal’ and ‘traitor’ becoming everyday vocabulary. But once we look under the surface we can find that understanding metaphors provides rich insight into the profoundly moral outlooks that influenced both those who sought to leave the European Union and those who campaigned to stay in it. Members of the public, opinion formers and politicians relied on metaphor as a way of framing political issues and provided stories and allegories for both sides of the debate. Understanding these helps us to understand what both Leavers and Remainers held in common: a belief and desire that they could improve their society. In the opening chapter I illustrate how metaphors influenced the Brexit debate in various ways. When Boris Johnson claimed “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” he was combining moral reasoning with humour. When political cartoonists represented Britain or the European Union as the ‘titanic’ they were contesting allegories in which the same symbol expressed opposing perspectives. The purpose of this book is to explain how, why and with what effect metaphor was employed by the two sides. Whether in official statements of political position, press articles, social media posts or in the more formal arguments developed in debating chambers, metaphors were used in the telling of moral stories that resonated with audiences. Not only do metaphors serve up ‘palatable’ ideas that seek out their own audiences on social media, they are ways of bringing moral issues into the domain of popular experience. The proverbs and idioms to which people respond translate professional registers into a language that is more familiar for ordinary people: the eating of cakes, the picking of cherries and emergency brakes.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

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