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No matter what they say, oil is not "product''

I admit I am picky about words.

Maybe it comes from growing up in a family of teachers, but I like them to mean what they say, down to the nuance. Sometimes when they don't, I become that lady in church who gives you a dirty look when you laugh out loud.

Which leads us to the dismal subject of oil, all that oil and precisely what to call what is happening in our gulf.

But first, let's talk about some other words.

"Sticky," for starters.

"Sticky" came up in the news about Toyota and accelerator problems in some of its cars suspected of having "sticky gas pedals."

"Since the sticky pedal recall ..." a recent story said. Those wacky, sticky gas pedals!

Sticky is a little kid's face after a round of cotton candy. Sticky is your wrist after you eat a Popsicle outside in June. Sticky is generally fixable with a wet wash cloth.

A potentially deadly defect in a car is not.

A pox on "sticky."

In local news recently was a particularly horrible story in which a rapist was identified by his victims in part by how bad he smelled.

News reports said he had become known to authorities as the "stinky rapist," stinky making him sound less like what he was and more like a whimsical bad guy in a cartoon.

In lighter news, a recent memo from General Motors to employees asked them to stop saying "Chevy" and opt for the more formal Chevrolet, even when talking to friends and family.

The reasoning was unclear, though the memo said something about "consistency." Never mind Chevy is as affixed and friendly-sounding in American parlance as Coke. And sometimes, a Chevy is a Chevy. What else are you supposed to take to the levee?

After public reaction, G.M. seemed to back off some, saying the memo was "poorly worded" and that it wasn't discouraging customers from saying Chevy.

Now for the oil spill.

Since the Deepwater Horizon blew nearly two months ago, millions of gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, fouling the water, forming tar balls, saturating seabirds.

Oh, wait, that's not oil. That's "product." Not quite as ugly, right?

Even Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen has been heard to call the dark mess "product," as in "larger concentrations of the product coming up." But forgive the man. He must be ungodly weary of the word "oil."

To be clear, "product" is pricey hair goo, the kiwi-mango foaming mousse your hairdresser raves will volumize you like you have never been volumized before.

"Product" is not something with the potential to do untold damage to delicate ecosystems, tourism and the seafood industry.

And about the "spill."

Isn't a "spill" what happens when the waiter sets down your plate and inadvertently jostles your water glass? Spilled milk is what you are not supposed to cry over. Or in this case, rage against.

Since what's happening in the gulf has officially been declared the worst such event in American history, a horror show expected to play out for years, oil "disaster" seems more apt. Oil "crisis" works, too.

But only because "this thing that never should have happened and that we can never risk happening again" is a little long.

No matter what they say, oil is not "product'' 06/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 21, 2010 3:03pm]
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