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Analysing Contemporary Political Catchwords and Catchphrases

Familiar catchwords and catchphrases like ‘austerity, ‘new normal’, ‘cost-of-living crisis’, ‘culture wars’ appear to capture of-the-moment social concerns. They are used widely and frequently in all languages.

Here, these are understood as political catchwords which speak to collective or social concerns. They are distinguished from commercial catchwords which promote services and products for making profits.

Investigating the different, often contrary, emphases and associations in political-catchword usage could tell us a great deal about such urgent issues as, for instance, the generation of fake news and disinformation, polarised and conflictual political convictions, populist propaganda and protest mobilisation.

About the Project

The focus of this collaborative project, funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Networking Grant, is on public digital communications, such as on social networks and through websites. Project deliberations will extend to political catchwords in a range of languages, though exchanges will mostly be conducted in English.

Researchers and professionals from different backgrounds and contexts will come together in a series of workshops and seminars to develop methods for rigorously studying political catchwords.

Workshops and seminars will be organised over 2024-2025, in: London by The Open University, UK; Nicosia by the University of Nicosia, Cyprus; Amman by the Arab Open University Jordan; and Sofia by the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. For details, see the Activities page.

These events will focus on progressively developing rigorous methods for analysing political catchwords with local, comparative, and international perspectives in view.


Through progressive and linked discussions, two kinds of general methods for studying political catchwords will be developed.

  • The first focuses on the adoptions and adaptations of specific political catchwords in different genres of written texts, e.g., news reports, policy statements, non-fictional/fictional narratives, academic papers.
  • The second focuses on how political catchwords feature in and spread across very large numbers of texts, e.g., through social networks and media platforms.

The ambition is to develop methods that could then be applied to all political catchwords in any language or cultural setting.

The deliberations in events will be profiled on the Reports and Notes page, and an ongoing discussion features in the Concepts and Methods blog page. 

Banner image: Madhav-Malhotra-003, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons