Cripes, I’ve squashed my sombrero metaphors


The World Today Updated 4 February 2021 Published 5 February 2021 1 minute READ

The coronavirus crisis has really tested the ability of politicians to speak in public without putting their foot in it. From the early days, when Boris Johnson thought he was doing his bit for public morale by reassuring us that he was still shaking everyone’s hands, the pandemic has been quite a schooling for a leader who has long delighted audiences by himself not knowing what outrageous thing he was going to say next.

It has been interesting to observe him editing his performance in real time, forcing himself to swallow the colourful phrases and to replace them with the dead bureaucratese of the officials who brief him even as he speaks. In an early news conference, the linguistically boisterous Johnson talked about ‘squashing the sombrero’, but as he was referring to a graph of predicted deaths, in later appearances his language became less colourful.

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