Publication details [#613]

A’Beckett, Ludmila. 2012. Depleted metaphors: the things we avoid like the plague. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca. 11 pp.
Publication type
Book – conference proceedings
Publication language


On the basis of a contrastive analysis between English and Russian, the author shows that the idiomatic expression to avoid something like the plague has undergone a process of depletion or bleaching by means of which this construction has lost its strong negative meaning. The concept ‘plague’ whose original meaning indicates an infectious, epidemic disease causing high mortality is nowadays used to refer to unpleasant situations or people and trivial events, such as buying bank stocks, having certain habits in marriage or using anti-virus programs. In English this idiom is generally used in headlines giving advice and warnings while in Russian it is present in the narrative text (e.g. Five Christmas Movies To Avoid Like The Plague). The English idiom differs from the Russian variant in the degree of control ascribed to the recipient of the event (to avoid in English and to fear in Russian).