Chatterbox #249 – Social distancing: Part 2

Episode description

Andrew and Suzanne talk about COVID-19, the situation in North America, and English expressions that are used to talk about the pandemic in part 2 of this special Chatterbox episode.

Note: The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Andrew: Hey everyone, Andrew here. In this Chatterbox episode Suzanne and I continue our talk about the COVID19 pandemic and the current situation in North America. And because we wanted to release this episodes to you as soon as possible, we decided to not make a study guide for it. However, the transcript is available on our website so make sure to check that out. And also this is part 2 of our talk. So if you didn’t listen to part 1 yet, make sure to do that first.

We’re continuing our experiment of asking you some listening comprehension questions at the start of this episode. And by the way guys, if you like this new feature, send me a message and let me know and we’ll keep it up. You can send a message to or by searching for the Culips English Podcast on social media.

Listen to the end of the episode, after the closing music, for the answers.

Ok here are the questions:
1. Who made an announcement on TV telling Canadians traveling abroad that they need to return to Canada?
2. A shopper in my hometown went to the grocery store and bought all of the store’s stock of one kind of food. What food did he buy?
3. Suzanne mentions that big stores are running out of stock on some products. However different kinds of stores are fine. What kinds of stores are fine?

Hey everyone, my name is Andrew.

Suzanne: And I’m Suzanne.

Andrew: In part 1 of this episode, Suzanne and I talked a little bit about some of the expressions that English speakers are using to talk about this pandemic. And we also talked a little bit about what the situation is like right now in North America and what’s happening in North America because of the pandemic. So again, here I’m joined by Suzanne. Hello Suzanne.

Suzanne: Hi Andrew. It’s good to talk about this stuff with you. 

Andrew: Yeah. Well, I know that a lot of our listeners are very curious about what’s happening, because they can compare it to what’s happening in their home country. And I mean, I don’t think there’s been a global news story on this scale for a really long time, as long as I can remember.

Suzanne: Yeah, I agree.

Andrew; So it seems kind of short sighted to ignore it and not talk about it completely. And so that’s why we’re here, Suzanne, to chat about it. And I guess I should explain to all of our listeners, what Chatterbox is. Chatterbox is the Culips series where we have completely natural English conversations. We don’t really change our speaking patterns, or our speaking speed or anything like this. We just have natural conversations and we let all of you guys listen in so that you can really improve your English listening skills and create an English immersive environment for yourself.

So, Sue, we’re talking about COVID-19 and some of the expressions that English speakers are using these days to talk about the pandemic. And after we go through some of these, we’ll also talk about what it’s like in North America right now, in Montreal specifically where you are. So one of the expressions I want to talk about is self-isolation. In the previous episode, part one, we talked about social distancing and from my perspective, these are pretty close these two expressions. Is there any difference between them that you could think of or that you could tell our listeners?

Suzanne: I think so. I think self-isolation is more that you’re isolating yourself within your home or containing yourself within a location. Whereas social distancing is making sure that you’re far enough apart from other people within an environment. So, when you’re out and about if you’re grocery shopping, or maybe going to the doctor or you know, walking the dog, doing those necessary activities, you want to keep a social distance from people. But self-isolation is more about being within a contained space, right? So isolating yourself within your home or wherever you are, if you’re in a hospice, or….

Andrew: Hotel room.

Suzanne: Hotel room. Exactly.

Andrew: Yeah, OK. That’s actually a really good way to explain it. Social distancing then, is kind of staying away from people while you’re in public, right? So if you’re on a bus, and there’s many seats, maybe don’t sit beside the guy that’s sitting in the front seat of the bus, go to the back and sit away from everybody. So there’s space between people. Self-isolation is more like kind of holding yourself up or locking yourself up, as you said last time, so that you are completely away from other people. And this leads into the next expression that I want to talk about, which is very similar to self-isolation, but a little more serious and that is quarantine, quarantine, quarantine. So, quarantine is…  it’s more intense because it’s ordered, right? Self-isolation is like I don’t want to get sick or I don’t want to get other people sick. So I’m just gonna take the initiative myself and not leave my house and just stay inside, stay away from other people. Whereas quarantine, it is more like the government could be the government of your country or a government of a different country, if you’re traveling is saying you have to stay inside. It’s usually for two weeks, you have to stay inside for two weeks or you have to stay in a hospital for two weeks. You can’t leave, so it’s a more official order to stay isolated.

Suzanne: Yes. So an example of that is at Olivier’s office, my fiancé now, office they have a quarantine rule or policy where if anyone that works in his office has traveled in the last month, I guess or two to specific countries that maybe had a larger outbreak, or even just traveled in general, I honestly I think at this point. They are automatically quarantined at home for two weeks with no contact with work people, so that in case they are a carrier, they they won’t affect or infect others. So yeah, I think some offices are really putting that into practice.

Andrew: Right. So it can happen then, on a kind of corporate level, too, with with offices or businesses making a decision to protect the staff of the organization by getting potentially sick people away from the employees. Interesting.

Suzanne: We don’t have to do that because, we’re already pretty far away from each other.

Andrew: I know some of my friends that are abroad right now are having to come back to Canada. Our Prime Minister was on TV the other day, and he looked directly into the camera and he said, all Canadians abroad, now is the time to come home, come home. And so, actually, I was even thinking, like, I’m a Canadian abroad, do I have to go back home? But I feel like my home is kind of here in Korea now. I think he was more aiming that comment at travelers, right?

Suzanne: Right. You have a life and a status and things.

Andrew: Yes. I can’t just pack up and go back to Canada. It’s not as easy for me.

Suzanne: Well, and then I’m the same way. Yeah, because I mean my life is here now, for sure. I’m a permanent resident now, which is great. But I actually feel safer here at the moment. There’s less cases in Canada than in the US. But exactly, now the border, the border was open between Canada and US citizens and permanent residents only and green card holders only. But now it’s closed, the borders have closed. So in a way, we’re kind of like quarantining, our countries are quarantining. So, yeah.

Andrew: Let’s move on to the next expression, which we kind of touched on a little bit in part one, we didn’t actually say the expression but we we talked about it and it is a word that I’ve heard a lot recently and haven’t heard a lot too much in the past and… except when talking about very specific medical situations. It’s a big word guys. It’s hard to pronounce. I’m going to try my best. It is immunocompromised, immunocompromised. Did I do that correctly, Suzanne?

Suzanne: You did and just the pronunciation teacher in me is saying that if you focus on the stress of this word as the primary stress is on com, right? Immunocompromised, immunocompromised. But, you also have a secondary stress in this word, it’s like not the heavy, heavy hit. But the second heavy hit, is the mu immune. Immunocompromised, immunocompromised. So, the mu is like best friends with the com. So if you think of it in that rhythm, yeah.

Andrew: It’s easier to say immunocompromised, so this is kind of a blended word. Talking about your immune system, right? Your body’s defense against sickness and compromised meaning something is at risk or at danger, right? So, as far as I know, an immunocompromised person then would be somebody who is sick or elderly. Maybe they have a disease already and their body is not at full strength. Is this your understanding as well of this word, Suzanne?

Suzanne: Yeah, I think you know, I went through cancer treatment. And when you do chemotherapy for example, you’re… the chemicals are killing all cells that are building or multiplying at a specific rate. So certain drugs target certain rates of cell growth. OK? I know that’s a little bit complicated to wrap your brain around maybe, in an English podcast.

Andrew: Even for me and I’m an English speaker.

Suzanne: Yeah, so like, it’s kind of like if you take one drug, it’s really targeting like the really, really fast cells, right?  So like your hair falls out, that’s why your hair falls out. And then there’s another drug that targets the kind of little, slightly slower growing cells. So your hair starts growing back on your head, but your eyebrows now fall out because that’s a different cell growth rate, it’s that they grow at a little bit slower rate. So your immune system and white blood cells that fight off all of the diseases, they’re like your big, you know, the big guns that come out to fight the viruses and everything. Those are quickly multiplying cells. Those are cells that multiply quickly. And so the drugs that chemo… the chemo drugs target all cells in the body that grow fast. So those cells get killed too. And that makes you immunocompromised because your immune system is operating at 1 instead of 10. Or 7, right? So it’s like you kind of are playing a video game. And you see like your life left is like slowly going down, you know? Like, the big monster is like coming at you and you’re like, you’re like, oh, no, I just have one life left. So that’s kind of a visual of like being immunocompromised, I would say.

Andrew: Right, your body just doesn’t have the strength to maybe fight another issue, right? And so we’ve been hearing this word used a lot when talking about how to deal with the kind of shutdown that’s happening in many North American cities right now. So for example, and this kind of leads us into some of the other terms that we’re gonna talk about here at grocery stores, for example, for whatever reason, there has been a shortage on toilet paper, right? There’s been a shortage on toilet paper and people are kind of panicking and going to the grocery store buying many products. One person in my hometown was shamed on social media because he went to the grocery store and bought all of the meat in the grocery store. So he had like five carts full of all of the meat, because he was panicking, yeah, so the grocery store didn’t have any specific policy about this and he panicked and bought all of this. But what people are saying is that we need to think first of the immunocompromised. So people that are elderly or that are fighting other battles with different diseases, they should have priority when it comes to shopping, or when it comes to getting masks or hand sanitizer, these kind of products that are really needed by immunocompromised people more than they are by someone like me that has a pretty good immune system. Fingers crossed.

Suzanne: Yes, I know. Me too. I’m like, my immune system hasn’t been the same. I used to have a very strong immune system. I never got sick ever. And since finishing chemo I’ve gotten, I got the flu on Christmas Day, the regular old flu. I think and I don’t think I had the flu in like 15 years, like, since like, yeah, so it was, I mean, I’ve had bad colds, you know, before. It’s Montreal and it’s cold and it can, you can get some bad colds here. Lord knows. So I think I’m still not 100%. I wouldn’t say I’m immunocompromised, but I’m maybe at like an 8. And I’m not at like 10, you know?

Andrew: So you might wanna do some of this self-isolation that we talked about before, right?

Suzanne: Yes, I am. Yes. What’s funny is when you realize that it’s not so much of an adjustment. I think we both said this in the last part one as well. When self-isolation and working from home is kind of normal for you. You start to realize wow, I’m actually not very social. I actually just work at home and live at home all the time. Wow.

Andrew: Right. And so we’re seeing this set phrase work from home used a lot as well, these days work from home. So pretty much all of my friends and relatives that have a job that allows them to work from home right now, they’re working from home. Actually, the same is true in Korea, all of my friends who have a job that allows them to work from home, they’re working from home. I work at a university and our university has transitioned to online classes. So, I am working from home doing my classes online which actually reminds me a lot of Culips because I just sit and record because they’re video lectures.

Suzanne: How is that?

Andrew: It’s too early to tell how it is. Its.. I teach English conversations. So it’s a challenge to try and figure out how to teach a conversation class through video lectures, but it’s something we’re working on. You know, desperate times call for desperate measures. So I think it’s better to do this than the alternative of everybody getting sick.

Suzanne: For sure, and do you just curious, do you guys foresee the rest of this semester being online?

Andrew: There is supposed to be an announcement about that tomorrow as it scheduled my university’s supposed to go back to in-class classes at the end of March. But recently, the Korean government made an announcement to suspend all schools from kindergarten to high school, push those back into April and we haven’t heard an announcement from the universities yet, but I think they’ll probably do the same thing. Some universities have announced they’re going completely online. I don’t think we’ll do that. But who knows what can happen is too hard to say. So it’s stressful time for students. I feel bad for my students because their first-year students. This is their first semester at university and they have to start online, so it’s a little bit stressful for them. But yeah, I’m just thankful that I have a job that lets me work from home when I need to.

Suzanne: True, that’s really true. I yeah, I think here in the US and Canada so far, they may actually stay all online or no school till next September, actually.

Andrew: I heard that in Ontario, it’s as far as I know, it was announced in Ontario that school will be suspended until September, which may to some of our listeners around the world might seem really extreme, but you have to remember that school has the summer break in North America.  Well, half of June and July and August anyways, so it’s really not as long as it seems. Students are probably so stoked. I can’t imagine if I was, you know, 12 years old or something and suddenly I didn’t have to go school for six months. I’d be so stoked. But I think parents are concerned about childcare and especially dual income families where both parents work. Everybody’s stressed out because childcare is so expensive in Canada and the States in many places too. So, it’s a real concern.

Suzanne: It is. It is. I think that just to lighten the mood, from… with a work from home, anecdote, some of my friends posted on Facebook to put people that are working from home post what your animal and or children are doing and call them coworkers. So there were some really funny comments. Like my coworker is screaming “where are the snacks?” My coworker is walking around with no pants on! Or you know, and it’s funny to hear it as your coworker.

Andrew: Right, instead of you two-year-old or something.

Suzanne: Instead of your son. Oh, yeah, yeah, like my coworker is wearing a diaper. Or a messy diaper. You know, my coworker his diaper is leaking. Ah, if you really think of it that way, it’s quite funny. So, yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, for sure.

Suzanne: Your pets and your kids become your coworkers.

Andrew: Right, Suzanne, we have two more expressions that I thought we should talk about here and then probably could wrap it up. The last two are related. They are to hoard as a verb to hoard or to be in the noun form to be a hoarder, to be a hoarder. And so like I said, you know that story about the guy who bought all of the meat at the supermarket, he is hoarding. He’s hoarding. He’s just buying all of the supplies. And I was curious about what’s it’s like in Montreal?

Suzanne: That’s just a lot of meat. I mean, it’s just a lot of meat. I mean, it’s… I understand his panic but like, buy some tofu, maybe some veggies, you know?

Andrew: Maybe he bought the tofu too. I don’t know. He could have.

Suzanne: Yeah, it’s not so bad. I definitely saw low amounts. Low stock of toilet paper, yes. I did see toilet paper in the stores. We tend to be shopping at more of the local mom and pop kind of fruit shops with that have veggies and stuff. They’re local, we want to support the local shops and they seem to be in stock. They’re fine, I think what we’re seeing is more like the Costco places and the like larger grocery stores are out of some products. I think the biggest thing are cleaning products like Clorox wipes. You can’t find them anywhere. People are having trouble finding vitamin C like Echinacea all of those immune support sort of vitamins. Hand sanitizer is really hard to find. I ordered some online, it’s coming. I also have been incorporating thieves essential oil into my daily routine. So I spray it on things. It’s something that’s getting lower in stock around the world as well. Thieves oil is like five or six different combinations of herbs that the story goes that back in the time of the plague, there were four thieves that would come around and steal all of the riches off of the people who were dying, but they never got sick. And when they went… when they were caught, and before a judge, the judge said, I will give you a lighter sentence if you give us the recipe of this oil combination because you don’t ever seem to get sick. And so that’s the story of where that like combination of oil came from and it.

Andrew: Some oily dudes.

Suzanne: Totally, well it’s a natural antiviral and antibacterial combo, so it can’t hurt. I mean, who knows if it’s like stopping the plague. But it’s, you know, it can’t hurt, so.

Andrew: Yeah, anything that’ll give your immune system a little boost. I don’t think there’s any harm with that.

Suzanne: Totally, might as well so that’s, you know, those are kind of things that are starting to dwindle and are harder to find in the store here, but it’s not as bad in Canada as it is in the US. I think it’s worse in the US for sure.

Andrew: Right. Yeah, interesting.

Suzanne: People are hoarding toilet paper like crazy.

Andrew: In the US, Yeah. Well, I think probably everyone’s seen by this point, some of the photos online of stores with no toilet paper. And it’s really strange to me out of all the product…. We say there’s a run like a run on toilet paper, right? People going and when there’s a run on something, it means that many people are buying that product at the same time. Sometimes we talk about, you know, a run on a certain stock even, it’s a financial term.

Suzanne: Yeah, that’s so funny. Yeah.

Andrew: And the final term here that I wanted to mention was prepper, prepper. And a prepper is somebody who prepares hence the name prepper for disaster. And usually, it’s for like a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado. Or it could be, you know, some conspiracy theorists that thinks the government might take over, or a foreign power will come and invade the country. So these, these people are sometimes preppers are a little bit.

Suzanne: Extreme?

Andrew: Are a little bit extreme, yeah. But there’s been lots of jokes online these days about how the preppers are finally, finally, it’s true. We have all this toilet paper, we have all these tuna cans and we’re going to weather the storm.

Suzanne: It’s funny. Usually you say Doomsday, right? Doomsday prepper someone who preps for the end of times.

Andrew: Right, right. And so I guess it goes to show that, you know, being prepared is never a bad thing. So, maybe you can overdo it. And it’s almost like its own little subculture, the prepper community on the internet and I feel like, especially in some parts of the United States, it seems to be more extreme than in other places of North America. But it is a word that I’ve seen pop up recently, more than usual.

Suzanne: Yeah, I agree. It’s it’s definitely coming up, coming up more in the consciousness. And I just I just would like to kind of close with this thought. As people buy more things and hoard things, it’s really important for us, both in our mind and in our pocketbook in our in how we spend our money to be conscious of the people around us. And in this time to really have an open heart and and see that there are people that are less fortunate than we are. There are a lot of homeless people in Montreal, there are a lot of homeless people in Canada and in the US. That’s been coming up a lot, as well as the humour on social media. But a lot of things are being shared that, you know, there are a lot of homeless people that they can’t, they don’t know where to go, you know? They’re in a shelter and they can’t really socially distance because they’re, you know, in a shelter, and they’re just happy to get their next meal. So it’s you know, important to share some of those resources instead of hoarding them. If you have extra to donate them to a cause, or to a local shelter or kind of look at those, those places that might really benefit from the extra that you might have. So share that meat.

Andrew: And who knows, maybe that guy was buying all of the meat to donate it to a food bank or something. I mean, people are so quick to judge, right? We don’t really know the full story.

Suzanne: He might be in charge of buying the stuff for the food bank, you know? Yeah, he might be the guy in charge of handing out meat.

Andrew: You’re right Suzanne, this is a time where we need to think of others and stay safe together, right? If we protect each other then we can all get through it.

So I think we should wrap it up here, everyone. Thanks again for listening. Sue, where are we on social media?

Suzanne: I’m gonna tell you, we are on Twitter. We are on Instagram. We are on Facebook. My favourite is Instagram. But you guys can simply find us everywhere by just searching for Culips English Podcast, and check us out on the social media.

Andrew: Yeah, if you have any questions or comments for us, please get in touch. Maybe you even have a suggestion for a future episode that you would like us to talk about then, you can do that by sending us an email. Our email address is contact We will be back soon with another brand new Culips episode and we’ll talk to you then. Stay safe everyone. Goodbye.

Suzanne: Bye.

Andrew: Thanks for listening to the very end. Here are the answers to the comprehension questions:

a) Canada’s Prime Minster, Justin Trudeau made an announcement on TV telling Canadians abroad to come back to Canada.

b) The shopper bought all of the meat in the grocery store.

c) Suzanne said local mom and pop shops and also fruit shops still have products in stock.

Please refer to the Transcript section

Hosts: Andrew Bates and Suzanne Cerreta
Music: Something Elated by Broke For Free
Episode preparation/research: Andrew Bates
Audio editor: Andrew Bates
Transcriptionist: Heather Bates
Business manager: Tsuyoshi Kaneshima
Image: Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash