How are “scum,” “sludge,” “slush,” “slime,” “ooze,” “muck,” “mire,” “goo” and “gunk” different?

Sludge, slime, goo -- what's the difference?Toxic red sludge poured into a Hungarian village this week after a dam containing the chemical residue from an aluminum plant burst. At least four people were killed and dozens injured. The sludge continues to flow and threatens to contaminate the Danube River, one of Europe’s major waterways.

This tragedy poses a linguistic puzzle that, hopefully, can help us better describe the type of environmental horrors that seem to occur with increasing frequency. What words should we use to describe the substances we don’t want to think about? The stuff that is disgusting, harmful, not quite liquid but not quite solid?

Much of our vocabulary for these substances sounds funny: “gunk,” “goo,” “muck.” Let’s see if we can bring some clarity to these ambiguous terms that actually define things aren’t funny at all.

Sludge has a legal definition: “nutrient-rich, organic byproduct of the nation’s wastewater treatment process.” It can also be a “deposit at the bottom of a body of water.” Slush may be its source, but we think of this nicer-sounding word as a nicer substance, melting snow. Slush, however, can also be “waste, as fat, grease, or other refuse, from the galley of a ship.” Try not to think of that when you eat a slushee.

Slime is a general term, but traditionally describes organic matter: “a mucous substance produced by various organisms, such as fish, slugs, and fungi.”

Setting aside its use as an insult, scum specifically means “a film or layer of foul or extraneous matter that forms on the surface of a liquid.”

Ooze is a reluctant noun. The vague definition “anything that oozes” feels like a cop-out. Ooze works more effectively as a verb, anyhow.

Goo, “a thick or sticky substance,” generally describes friendlier stuff than toxic hazards, like pudding or glue. It probably derives from burgoo“thick porridge.” Gunk was originally a trademarked name of a degreasing solvent.

Muck and mire may be gross, but at least they’re made by nature. Muck is “an area of wet, swampy ground,” and mire is “a highly organic, dark or black soil, less than 50 percent combustible, often used as manure.”

After all that, want to know where “yuck” originated? Click here.

13,000 Jobless in Georgia Hit by End of Unemployment Benefits.

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News January 4, 2003 By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News Jan. 4–Christie A. Klosowski is out of work and out of luck.

Laid off twice in the same year — first in April and then again in September — Klosowski has spent the past four months searching for a new job with no success.

After exhausting her initial unemployment benefits, she began collecting the extended benefits Congress approved early last year to help workers caught up in the prolonged downturn.

But that extension ended Dec. 31 for nearly 800,000 recipients across the nation. Because Congress recessed for the holidays without extending benefits into the new year, 13,000 Georgians — including Klosowski — begin 2003 searching for employment without a safety net.

“I don’t care about what I take,” said Klosowski, who was making about $28,000 in her previous job as an accountant. “I’ll take minimum wage. But I want something that makes me feel worth something.” Klosowski has a little leeway. Her husband, Butch, is employed as a home builder — and his income is paying the bills for the couple and their two teenage sons. here free coupons for groceries

The loss of her income, however, has meant that the family had to cut out unnecessary items, like phone and computer extras. They clip coupons for groceries and have all but eliminated nights out at the movies.

But work is the only long-term solution. The family has no health insurance, so the Klosowskis pay out of pocket for medical expenses. That includes medications for her youngest son, who is developmentally delayed.

And her husband recently found a polyp on his throat.

“I’ll scrub toilets to keep the needs of my family met,” said Klosowski.

She may not have to go to that length. Democrats, now in the minority in both the U.S. House and Senate, say a push for an extension of unemployment benefits will be the first thing on their agenda when Congress reconvenes Tuesday. Their proposal would make extension benefits retroactive to the beginning of the year.

Unemployment reached 6 percent in November, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Economists anticipate that the jobless rate will hit 6.5 percent in early 2003 if the economy continues its recovery at an anemic rate.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said Congress should never have ended its session without tackling the benefits issue, especially since members managed to give themselves a pay raise before recessing. go to web site free coupons for groceries

“It is really rather shameful,” he said. “In this economy, it sends a very negative message.” In addition to the Georgians who have already exhausted their extended jobless benefits, Thurmond said another 25,000 are in the last weeks of their regular unemployment pay.

Unemployed workers, based on their work histories, are allowed up to $295 a week for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The extension gave them up to 13 more weeks of pay.

Thurmond said his department is bracing for next week when some unemployed workers, expecting an extension check, find out there isn’t one. Despite being told that the extension benefits were ending at the end of December, Thurmond suspects that didn’t sink in for some recipients.

Most irate will be those who had been approved for several more weeks of benefits, but were cut off because the extensions did not carry over into 2003.

“You can send out all the literature you want to, but it’s not until it stops that you start getting a lot of calls,” said Alexi Henry, career center manager for the department’s south metro unemployment office.

Klosowski said she is trying to stay positive about her employment chances. Though she has sent out about 80 resumes and received only about 10 responses, she said she thinks the new year will bring improved opportunities.

The family’s cutbacks have been hardest on her older son, a teen with typical wants that the family can’t afford, she said. Like most people in her position, she has dipped into her retirement funds.

Despite everything, the family is holding its own for the moment, she said. But she anticipates she’ll only be able to go without work for another couple of months, before she’ll have to do something more, like sell her car.

“My major thing is to focus on the positive,” she said. “You really waste your time focusing on the negative. I’m hoping that my persistence will pay off eventually.”


  1. Kate -  November 1, 2010 - 9:33 am

    Hehehehehehehehe some of these words are prefixes for some of my best insults… >:D

  2. louis paiz -  October 8, 2010 - 7:52 am

    crud uncooked row rude unsofisticated crudo wild resently cuted unprofetional . thanks

  3. Rant -  October 7, 2010 - 8:06 pm

    “Crud.” What about crud? Did they forget this one? It’s something, isn’t it?

  4. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 7, 2010 - 10:40 am

    Omg!!! where is the song I PUT ON HERE??????????

  5. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 7, 2010 - 10:39 am

    Wow is all i’m saying

  6. Andrew -  October 7, 2010 - 7:56 am

    You have ‘Muck and ‘Mire’ mixed up. Mire is an area of swampy ground, Muck is well muck.

  7. alorah -  October 7, 2010 - 7:44 am

    lol hahahhaha sounds new to me

  8. David -  October 7, 2010 - 7:36 am

    By saying mire is used as manure, do they mean it’s burnable fuel (like from a peat bog) or that it makes good fertilizer, or that it just looks like poop. If it’s the poop one, I don’t understand… do I really need something that will stand in for a pile of poop if I can’t get my hands(figuratively speaking, of course) on a real pile of poop, because what would life be without it, after all? If it’s a blog about words, let’s be clear – Just saying…

  9. L.T. -  October 7, 2010 - 7:26 am

    What’s one more environmental catastrophe? — So long as it’s over there. — The smell and taste of sewage, will surely cause your hair — to fallout with some Holy Cost. — It’s their problem – nothing here we’ve lost. — Deafening is the sound and uproar — of too much sugar in our slushie. — We conservatively keep ourselves safe and our potatoes not lumpy but mushie. — What’s that thing about voting where change once had a chance. — It’s Politically foreboding — while we continue to drink and sing and dance. Schadenfreude.

  10. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 7, 2010 - 7:10 am

    So sorry I ment to put I don’t wanna breathe.

  11. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  October 7, 2010 - 5:35 am

    Thanks to the writer of this blog you have now ruined slushees for me :(

  12. Pottersvilla -  October 7, 2010 - 5:17 am

    Thanks great work. Yuckies

  13. Mo the One -  October 7, 2010 - 4:42 am

    hey people 4 people died!!

  14. ms.karma -  October 7, 2010 - 2:42 am


  15. ms.karma -  October 7, 2010 - 2:41 am

    lushiessay niay hetay ousehay ithway omesay igoay atinlay! :P

  16. Hypathie -  October 7, 2010 - 2:35 am

    Thanks for the definitions and synonyms ! I was looking for stuff to post something on my blog about the mud spill in Hungary. Very useful.

  17. Kathy -  October 7, 2010 - 2:24 am

    Amine, it’s just a fun daily page to help us all understand American English language. This explanation of the difference between many nasty things is just more fun than some days!

  18. ms.karma -  October 6, 2010 - 10:15 pm

    Wee! i’M LOOKing fOrWarD tO attenDing a surfbreaK in tHe pHiLippines!

    i’m gOnna Have sOMe sLusHies unDer tHe sun! HaHa! :P

  19. ms.karma -  October 6, 2010 - 10:06 pm

    slushies are perfect for summer especially when you are on the beach. :P

    lavet! (^^^)

  20. Krystin -  October 6, 2010 - 7:52 pm

    though melted snow makes it sound much much better! :D

  21. BOBTHETOMATO -  October 6, 2010 - 7:23 pm


  22. ms.karma -  October 6, 2010 - 7:23 pm

    back in high school, a booth in our canteen used to sell icey drinks in large cups, looked and tasted like slurpee in 7/11, they named it slush. hehe. :P

  23. BOBTHETOMATO -  October 6, 2010 - 7:22 pm


  24. Krystin -  October 6, 2010 - 5:51 pm

    ya im with Emily on that one too…its kinda discussting when you think about it. i really used to love slushys….:( soooo ya that sorta sucks….

  25. NINIEE -  October 6, 2010 - 5:26 pm


  26. AvidReader -  October 6, 2010 - 5:16 pm

    Thanks, blog-writer. You have forever ruined slushees for me :(

  27. Mary -  October 6, 2010 - 4:44 pm

    lol this thing was cool…how r they different though?

  28. vini -  October 6, 2010 - 4:42 pm

    thats quite the fourth physic state which Einstein proposed
    gooey like gel or sth

  29. Angelica -  October 6, 2010 - 4:40 pm

    This is so cool! I love to learn, even about stuff like this!

  30. Daniel -  October 6, 2010 - 4:28 pm

    Interesting about the other meaning of “slush.” Didn’t know that!

  31. Rykan V -  October 6, 2010 - 4:24 pm

    I refuse to eat refuse!

  32. SilverBee -  October 6, 2010 - 4:23 pm

    As a long-time lover of words and word play, I give you high marks. Thanks for an entertaining and informative piece.

  33. Faith -  October 6, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    I’m thinking that they probably got the name from the other meaning of the word slush, melting snow. You never know, though. I could be wrong. haha

  34. SLUDGESLIMEOOZEGOOMUCKSCUM | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  October 6, 2010 - 3:06 pm

    [...] (DRINK IT ALL UP) is ALWAYS healthy ESPECIALLY with quality Papricash — So bring on the GUNK and bring on the funk and get this act together — forget about Religion and political GOO and [...]

  35. Slushie -  October 6, 2010 - 2:55 pm

    Great. My name is officialy gross.

  36. amine -  October 6, 2010 - 2:15 pm

    hello every1..can some1 help about that..what is that ..can some1 help me for that page ..i do not understand what this page about-

  37. Nathan -  October 6, 2010 - 1:33 pm

    I don’t know Emily. But you got a good point.

  38. Emily -  October 6, 2010 - 1:09 pm

    Eww! That is so gross! How can you NOT think of that while eating a slushee? Makes you wonder how they got the name and what they were originally made of…

  39. Nathan -  October 6, 2010 - 1:01 pm

    I loved this post. It kind of made my day. Is that bad?


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