For more than two months, we've tracked news and developments of the Gulf oil spill. But is it technically a "spill?" The broken pipe is spilling (or gushing, or spewing, or leaking) as many as 30,000 to 60,000 gallons of oil a day. Is it time for some new terminology? What would you call the oil spill, and why?
Ben Zimmer joins us; he writes the On Language column for The New York Times. People are passionate about the language we're using to define the oil catastrophe (from "oil-apocalypse" to "runaway oil"). Zimmer says that we're searching for a term that helps embody the magnitude of the Gulf spill. He looks at historical connotations behind some of the words in use like "gusher" and "rupture," as well as at the language that was used to describe the Ixtoc blowout in the Gulf of Mexico 20 years ago to see if it can help put these words in perspective.