Though I am loathe to use the phrase, I am, just for today, going to mention the contradictory term that we have been bombarded with on an incessant loop for the last few months. It’s oxymoronic construction not withstanding, social distancing, like any term, seems to lose all meaning when it is reiterated so often. I have become numb to the term, worn out from seeing and hearing it everywhere.
Of course a more accurate description of what is intended would be physical distancing. Keeping space between one another. Respecting personal space. Even in non-pandemic times, I don’t understand people who have to inch up right behind the person ahead of them in a queue. Whether it’s due to obliviousness of creepiness, fuck off out of my personal space.
But the terminology isn’t the only idiotic facet of this concept. The pictured sign, and others similar to it, have been popping up all over the city. Even though Ireland, like pretty much everywhere else but the US, the UK, and Myanmar, uses the metric system, the signage has used a mixture of metric and imperial measurements – 2 metres or 6 feet. As you learned and numerate readers well know, these two measurements are not at all equal. In fact, 2 metres is closer to 7 feet than 6, being almost 6 feet 7 inches. I am 6 ft tall. I most certainly am not 2m tall. If I were, I could play basketball. I say could, because even if I was so extraordinarily tall I still wouldn’t play that stupid boring sport.
The World Health Organisation has recommended keeping a physical distance of one metre. However, here in Ireland, it is remains either two metres, or 1.86 – whichever you prefer yourself I suppose. So not only are we not following the WHO’s guidelines, we are actually confusing the issue with two different measurements. Why use the archaic imperial measurement at all? It’s not even as if the metric system is new; it’s been around for over 200 years. That’s a lot longer than, for example, the Euro. Yet we don’t continually convert Euros into Irish Punts now do we?
So the sign in the picture is both an abuse of language, and a tribute to innumeracy. Sigh.