Re: Terminology: "physical distancing" vs "social distancing"
From: Elizabeth Magill (
Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2020 13:49:18 -0700 (PDT)
It's my job as a pastor to help keep my congregation's social
connections happening, while helping people understand they need to
practice physical distancing from other people. And so that is the
language I use: physical distancing, most often mentioning that what
we are keeping distant from is other people.

Mosaic Commons Cohousing in Berlin, MA

On Thu, Apr 9, 2020 at 4:13 PM David Jaggar <davidjaggar [at]> wrote:
> I’ve felt uncomfortable using the term “social distancing” ever since it
> suddenly began to have ubiquitous global usage once coronavirus became an
> epidemic and then a pandemic. The constructive alternative phrase that I,
> and now many others, have adopted is “physical distancing.”
> Social distance means something along the lines of the extent to which
> individual or groups are removed or excluded from participating in each
> other lives. It just seemed to me social distancing was the last thing we
> wanted in the context of isolation and shelter in place measures, and so
> on. It is on these occasions that more than ever we desire social
> connection.
> (Then, in international sociology, for example, “social distance” has a
> well-established more technical meaning, and is measured according to the
> Bogardus Social Distance Scale, as a measure of separation from other
> people or groups, and this meaning is searchable on the Internet for those
> interested.)
> So within community and cohousing networks and elsewhere I’d like to
> suggest dropping the term “social distancing” in favour of “physical
> distancing” or some such equivalent.
> David.
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(The Rev. Dr.) Elizabeth Mae Magill
Pastor, Ashburnham Community Church
Minister to the Affiliates, Ecclesia Ministries

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