Yesterday’s disappointing news from the Gulf of Mexico has had me fixed on a particular word, one that seldom appears in good news.
Not long after it seemed the cap on BP’s spewing oil well was going to hold and finally begin to contain the massive spill, something troublesome was discovered—seepage.
Seepage is never good. It’s unintentional. It’s messy. It often means something is going somewhere it’s not supposed to. If seepage is in your story, chances are, you’re in trouble. Just when the higher-ups at BP were looking forward to exhaling, along came seepage. The last thing the poor citizens and businesses along the Gulf Coast want to hear is seepage.
Yesterday, for whatever reason, the word leapt off its prominent spot on the front page and created little puddles in my brain. But with every lame attempt to blot them up, more disturbing words ending in “age” came at me.
“Age” is a common suffix, used, among other ways, to turn verbs into nouns, such as seepage. It is also used to turn singular nouns into uncountable nouns, such as signage and plumage. Signage and plumage are good things, and, if you were delivering news, you wouldn’t mind them in your story. Acreage, coverage and cleavage are also nice things to have.
But all I thought about yesterday after reading about the seepage were all the other “age” words—most, oddly, beginning with “s”—that one would not want to have to use in his or her story, nor want to hear when receiving news.
Sewage isn’t something you want to hear about. Steerage isn’t a desirable place. If you are relying on your work or the product thereof, a stoppage is bad news, as is a shortage. Don’t tell me about spillage, spoilage or soilage. Slippage is unacceptable. And absolutely no one wants to have to explain shrinkage.
Those are the “s” words. Please don’t send me back to the beginning of the alphabet or we’ll have to talk about blockage, bondage, breakage and carnage. So let’s not go there.
Before we move off yesterday’s front page story, let’s add “burbling” to the list of words that aren’t usually used in good news.
Note: I first thought burbling was a portmanteau for bubble + gurgle, because isn’t that what the seepage is doing? As it turns out, burble is also a scientific term. It’s a turbulent eddy in fluid flow caused by roughness near the boundary surface or loss of energy in the laminar flowing fluid. But then you all probably knew that.