One of the most commonly-used expressions nowadays is “social distancing”. This expression was hardly used before the coronavirus spread across the world but came out of the blue when people everywhere started getting infected and dying from the virus. But is social distancing the right expression to use? Many experts, including experts from the World Health Organization, say people and governments should use “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing”. There is “a world of difference” between the two expressions. I agree with experts that “physical distancing” is much better because “social distancing” sends a wrong message to people. To understand the difference, we need to understand the difference between “social” and “physical”.
The word “social” used this way means friends or families meeting and spending time together. The word “physical” used this way involves bodily contact or touching each other. Experts say even though people should stand at least six feet apart from each other to avoid spreading the coronavirus, describing it as “social distancing” gives the impression people should distance themselves socially from family and friends. They say people should still socialize with family or friends if possible but should take all the necessary precautions. That’s why it’s better to call it “physical distancing”. Of course, if people want to be extra careful, they can socialize by using social media apps. For example, some people have happy hour with friends but they all stay in their own homes and use apps to see and talk to each other.
The expression “out of the blue” means something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly. The coronavirus came “out of the blue” in Wuhan. When that happened, the expression “social distancing” also came “out of the blue”. The expression “a world of difference” means there is a big difference between two people or things. There is “a world of difference” between the words “social” and “physical”. There is “a world of difference” in the way US President Donald Trump is governing America compared to other US presidents.
現在，其中一個最普遍使用的習語是“social distancing”。這個習語在新冠病毒傳遍世界之前很少用到，但當各處的人都開始感染到疫症及死亡後，這習語就突然（out of the blue）冒起。然而，“social distancing”是否正確的用語？許多專家，包括世界衞生組織的專家，都說人們和各地政府應該用“physical distancing”而非“social distancing”，這兩個習語可謂有「天淵之別」（a world of difference）！我認同專家們所說的，“physical distancing”好得多了，因為“social distancing”會向人傳遞錯誤的訊息。要了解當中的差異，我們得先理解“social”和 “physical”的分別。
“Social”在這裏是指社交，即朋友或親人相聚的時候；“physical”在這裏則指有身體接觸的。專家說，即使人們應該互相距離六呎遠，以避免傳播新冠病毒，將之形容為「社交距離」（social distancing）卻會給人一個印象，就是人們應在社交上（socially）與親友保持距離。他們說，人們應在可能的情況下繼續與家人或朋友交際（socialize），只是應該採取必要的預防措施。因此，將之叫做「人身距離」（physical distancing）更為合適。當然，若人們想格外小心，他們可以使用社交媒體程式去社交（socialize），例如一些人就與朋友共度歡樂時光，但卻是各自留在自己的家中，以程式去見面和聊天。
習語“out of the blue”意即某事來得很突然、出乎意料。這新冠病毒在武漢毫無預警地（out of the blue）出現。當這事發生時，習語“social distancing”也同樣是突如其來地（out of the blue）冒起。習語“a world of difference”是指兩個人或事物有天大的差別。“Social” 和“physical”二字就有天淵之別（a world of difference）。美國總統當勞．特朗普管治美國的方式，與其他的前任美國總統亦是有天淵之別（a world of difference）。
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧