Saturday, May 1, 2010

What do you call an oil spill that's not a spill at all? In search of a term

Posted By on Sat, May 1, 2010 at 5:03 PM

The Twitter hashtag #oilspill has been a great resource when it comes to reading what people have to say about BP's incredible cock-up off the Louisiana coast ... but it's not accurate. This isn't a spill, like the Exxon Valdez, but a pipe far below the ocean surface continually spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

It's the difference between dropping a bottle of water on your kitchen floor vs. putting a garden hose through your mailslot, turning on the tap full blast, and leaving the house.

So: how do we describe it? On Twitter, @newlnlay compares it to a "puncture wound with profuse bleeding," and says it's been described on WWL-TV as a "discharge."

Others have suggested "oilspew," "oilscrew," "oil disaster," "K2," and -- humorously -- "manmade aqueous petrol-toxic event" and "subaqueous petroleum hemorrhage."

But the media are eventually going to settle on some shorthand for this, and it's not going to be BP's Incredible Cockup. Like everyone else, Gambit needs a term we can use, a term both short and accurate. And "spill" ain't it. (Right now we're calling it "Gulf oil disaster.")


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