By Garance Franke-Ruta and Ann Gerhart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010; 5:11 PM
Efforts to stop the Gulf Coast oil spill have given Americans a dizzying array of new technical terms to master. Many of these phrases sound peculiar to ears hearing them for the first time, but their functions are as serious as . . . a failed deadman switch. Below, a list of some of the least intuitive phrases, what they sound like they might mean -- and what they actually do. If they do what they are supposed to do.
Sounds like: Someone who took the last appointment at your salon.
Definition: A large valve at the top of an oil well that can be closed if a drilling crew loses control of it but that failed at Deepwater Horizon. (Source: Schlumberger's Oilfield glossary)
Sounds like: Tops the to-do list of a New Zealand shepherd.
Definition: Hardened steel blades within the blowout preventor designed to cut the drill pipe as a last resort to regain control of a well but that failed at Deepwater Horizon.
Sounds like: When the gravediggers get it wrong.
Definition: An automated mode function failsafe that failed at Deepwater Horizon.
Sounds like: A recurring and irksome sound that works your last nerve.
Definition: A remote-controlled backup device for the blowout preventor, but one that was not used at Deepwater Horizon.
Sounds like: A piece is stuck in the pneumatic barrel of your potato launcher.
Definition: The start of drilling operations for a well. From the old English "spudde," meaning a short knife.
"The burrito levee concept"
Sounds like: Sauce on the side, in a divided paper plate, at Taco Bell.
Sounds like: Takeaway containers for sausages in the French Quarter.
Definition: Bags filled with marine cement that are laid out on beaches and named after the Cajun sausages they resemble.
Sounds like: Contraceptives for feral cats.
Definition: A series of engineered interlocking flexible tubes that are inflated with water to form an impervious temporary dam. (Source: U.S. Flood Control Corp.)
Sounds like: Close relation to "the cone of silence."
Definition: A giant metal box lowered onto the leak to corral the oil so it could be siphoned to the surface. It failed to work at Deepwater Horizon.
Sounds like: A euphemism from the old Hollywood Code era.
Definition: A smaller version of the containment dome, it was considered for use at Deepwater Horizon but then abandoned in favor of other plans.
Sounds like: The reality show you get when you merge Bravo and Spike TV. (Source: James Poniewozik)
Definition: BP engineers armed with 50,000 barrels of dense mud and a fleet of robotic submarines attempt to plug the gusher a mile below the surface by pushing mud down through the BOP into the well. Specialists estimate it has a 60 to 70 percent chance of not failing.
Sounds like: A desperate golf swing that gets you nowhere. (Among other things.)
Definition. Stopping up the blowout preventor with a high-pressure blast of golf balls, bits of rubber tires and other refuse in an effort to cap the well. A method of last resort if the top kill fails.
Sounds like: Something one should listen to.
Definition: Something whose consequences we all have to live with after they were ignored.