At my grandson's school, the 4th graders discussed the news from the Gulf, then just weeks old. My 10-year-old grandson asked, "Why do they call it an oil 'spill'? That sounds like when you tip your glass of milk over. This sounds much, much worse."
It's a good question, and a kid spotted the euphemism. Later, we tried better words: "gusher, explosion, catastrophe." Now, with images of pelicans and other sad creatures smothered in tarry petroleum, struggling to move, we know how catastrophic that blowout is, and those words are being used, along with "disaster."
But many still call it the "spill."
Words matter, any advertiser can tell you that, and we've come to accept the spin machine: Banks want to help you with your house; drug companies test for safety; big energy companies care about the environment.
It's clear that industry never had a plan for how to handle the failure of equipment at such extreme depths. As each week brings a new measure desperately flung at the problem, the variety of ideas floated out there shows nobody knows what to do. Burn it, nuke it, blow it up, disperse it, capture it, relieve it .... anything that sounds like it might stop it.