Tar balls, sure. But what part of an oil spill is called chocolate mousse?

Can you imagine cleaning up an oil spill for a living? You would need words to talk about the work.  So what is the difference between a tar ball, a patch, a patty, a sheen and a slick? And chocolate mousse.

Starting with the term you are hearing all over the news, a tar ball is simply a clump of petroleum that has been subject to the salinity (salt content), constant movement, pressure, and extreme temperatures of ocean water.  Depending where they travel, the balls can cause different types of harm. At the bottom of the ocean they can slowly release their toxins into some of the most sensitive aquatic ecosystems. When they wash up on beaches, animals can swallow them quite easily or embed them in their feathers.

Though the media uses these words interchangeably, to oil spill bioremediation workers, a patty is an oil deposit bigger than 3.9 inches but smaller than 39.3 inches. It’s smaller than a patch but bigger than a tar ball.

The sheen (“brightness or radiance”) of an oil spill plays a role in determining the thickness, composition and size of an oil slick. The shinier the sheen, the thinner the slick (probably.) The sheen spectrum proceeds to rainbow colors and then gets darker. Darkness is not good news.

Mousse, or chocolate mousse, in petroleum slang, refers to oil that has emulsified, which means that the oil and sea water have blended together without actually combining. Basically, one substance in an emulsion coats the other like a wrapper, “a suspension of tiny droplets of one liquid in a second liquid.” The effect of emulsification on oil is high viscosity (extreme stickiness.)

You can imagine the consequences of mousse for an oil spill cleanup. So tar balls, in the sad scheme of things, can be easier to remove, since they are still relatively homogeneous.

If you’ve heard any other oil spill terms that you would like defined, please post them in the comments and answers will be posted there as well (check back later.)

Babysitter training offered — Red Cross hosts course on Saturday go to site my babysitters a vampire

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) August 21, 2007 On Saturday, Great Commission Church in Olive Branch will host an American Red Cross babysitter’s course. The event will be held at Great Commission Church Annex at 8941 Highway 305 North in Olive Branch, next to Fred’s.

The Red Cross babysitter’s course was designed and developed to meet the needs of boys and girls ages 11-15.

The Babysitter’s Training Course will teach you everything you need to be a great babysitter. This fun, interactive course teaches first aid and safety skills so you can prevent and respond to emergencies. As a Red Cross-trained babysitter, you will gain confidence and valuable employment skills that will impress employers and parents. Melanie Rucker, a former class attendee, said “I recommend this class because it prepares youth to be prepared and to make the best decisions when supervising children.” Some of the skills class participants will learn are: site my babysitters a vampire

How to prepare simple meals and snacks.

How to handle bedtime issues.

How to make good, responsible decisions.

How to perform first aid and infant/child CPR How to find and interview for babysitting jobs.

The investment of $40 will include lunch, supplies, Babysitter’s Training Handbook, and certificate of completion. A Babysitter’s Training Safety and First Aid Kit will be available for purchase for less then the price of a CD, this kit is sold separately.

“I have seen first-hand the enjoyment the class participants get from this training. When the youth complete the course, they are confident and eager to begin their job search,” stated Mark Hughes, the director of hospitality for Great Commission Church.

For more information about this community event and Great Commission Church, contact the church office, by calling (662) 253- 4930. You may register online at gccob.com.


  1. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 9, 2014 - 5:01 am

    I learned about emulsions in science recently.

    @magic texta:
    How is an oil spill “just like so way cool”?

  2. angel -  November 2, 2011 - 3:41 pm

    i really liked it when i found it on del.icio.us i m gonna check out some soon

  3. pharmacy technician -  November 8, 2010 - 7:29 pm

    found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  4. GIANT EYE BALL | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 10, 2010 - 10:20 am

    [...] good and nothing will harm you. — Who makes these calls — We’d still lay off the Tar Balls — Rousseau licks his own because he can. –>>Rupert [...]

  5. magic texta -  July 7, 2010 - 10:23 pm


    Yep and it always will be like that until they can’t clean up anymore. Obama is putting a lot of pressure on BP at the moment and its working. However, could be that Obamas doing this mainly to stay in americas good books. He’s under intense political pressure behind the scenes as well as from the media. Either he plays up to the people he rules over or gets dumped. Therefore, he has to put as much pressure on BP. Therefore BP has to clean up their mess.

    Still, theres no point crying over spilt milk…

  6. redbullybreed -  July 7, 2010 - 7:56 pm

    Is anything being done to stop the flow of crude oil into the gulf or is it still flowing unchecked?

  7. magic texta -  July 7, 2010 - 4:54 pm

    Yes fellas, gcoopdogg was right, I was being sarcastic. Sure an oil spill as large as that isn’t cool but I personally don’t see any need to get so worked up about it. Yes, it is harming the environment, yes it is killing wildlife, yes it does make an ugly mess of our oceans, but get the thing cleaned up as best as possible and get on with life.

    AY asked earlier on July 7th if the harm is permanent. Thats a question with multiple answers. It depends how long term you see as permanent. Eventually (and this could mean decades or even centuries)the oil molecules will break down. Until they are fully broken down the ecosystem can potentially still be harmed. The good news is that pollution is helping to break down the oil. Sound stupid??!? Sure it does. But pollution is really only pollution because of acid content. Acid is harmful to our enviro but in this case the higher acid content in the water will help break down the oil quicker.

    Sorry about the confusion I created earlier with sarcasm and I hope this essay helps explain things, AY.

  8. What? -  July 7, 2010 - 12:40 pm

    Emulsify means to combine two immiscible liquids which do not combine easily… You used the word blending… Blending and combining are practically the same term… Could you please elaborate on this one… What I have read is that most of the oil that emulsifies with the water is do to the dispersant chemicals. The chemicals are polar and nonpolar therefore binding to both the oil and the water causing emulsion… Also due to some weathering of the oil (breaking down of chemical components), oil and water emulsion is possible at a slower rate without the chemical dispersants.

  9. gcoopdogg -  July 7, 2010 - 10:49 am

    How’s about “baked alaska” as a term for the so-called “controlled burns” (which happen to destroy wildlife, including endangered sea turtles, btw.Way to own the situation, fellas!)
    I think it would be a great honor to that “Drill baby, drill!!” chick to honor her state in all this, considering Alaska will probably be the next place this happens. Stupid beautiful Polar Bears! They got some nerve swimming in our oil reserves! (And just so I don’t get attacked the way obvi and magic texta did…. yes, I’m being sarcastic!)

  10. THE HOT WORD | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 7, 2010 - 9:29 am

    [...] TAR BALLS as the hot word from Dict.com on this day — seems to us a term or phrase in the Slangodrama way — where “Define Your World” is a motto for the word they choose for that day — and usually it ain’t just one word — We don’t get it — how you say. — BP Tar Balls.–>>Mazloeb [...]

  11. feiseldad -  July 7, 2010 - 8:44 am

    pelicans swimming in chocolate mousse is probably as difficult as TV Icons swimming in syrup. dsc.discovery.com/videos/mythbusters-swimming-syrup/

  12. AY -  July 7, 2010 - 8:43 am

    I wonder if the harm is permanent or rather digestible by the ecosystem.

  13. Onion -  July 7, 2010 - 8:19 am

    Well, Fabian, you’ve managed to use very familiar words to make your situation “difficult to understand.” Maybe it was because you pulled an all nighter (which I would understand), but perhaps putting one idea per sentence would make it easier…

    …and back to the article: I don’t think any of us will be eating any of THAT chocolate mousse.

  14. mousse menace « a farther room -  July 7, 2010 - 7:43 am

    [...] from the Gulf these days with oil now washing up along the coastline from Texas to Florida. Over at The Hot Word, they’ve defined the different types of oil formations workers are cleaning from the sand and [...]

  15. Silly -  July 7, 2010 - 7:09 am

    C’mon folks – the “cool” comments were CLEARLY sarcasm. And what purpose does an opinion like “i don’t like the oil spill” serve? At least these vocab words were novel to their readers.

  16. DeeDee -  July 7, 2010 - 6:46 am

    Cool. People with no sense of humor.

  17. Jeevendra -  July 7, 2010 - 6:10 am

    Awesome work as usual… Thanks for clearing up the air for me… I was always wondering what the words meant….

  18. Fabian -  July 7, 2010 - 4:52 am

    I certainly learned how some words can mean differently and that when we use familiar terminology to describe serious situations, it not only makes it the situation easier to understand but also other (new) use for ‘old’ words. This bit of info certainly brought some words back to life as it were! But, all said and done – the info was COOL!

  19. straza -  July 7, 2010 - 3:49 am

    i have learnt some new words but oil spillage is a dreadful event which should be prevented at any cost possible

  20. barbeque and viking -  July 7, 2010 - 3:25 am

    There would be a respite point every once in a while in a vast stretch
    of the sea, so just wait till it is ready to move forward or backword, or
    sometimes just step aside. Then a stretch sometimes turns into that of a grass field, from smothering suffocation into a fresh breath of wind. I don’t know if the situation is happy or not, but it is worth living.

    Talking about toxic, my smoking doubles since last a couple weeks.

  21. TAR BALLS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 7, 2010 - 2:50 am

    [...] hammer falls — to use another GIZMO or thigamajig whatchamacallit for Mellon — Hold the TAR BALLS. –>>Rupert L.T. [...]

  22. For Earth Sake -  July 7, 2010 - 1:49 am

    I don’t think oil spill is cool. It’s our concern and E&P companies should take up the issue seriuosly. We are destroying lives of poor aquarius animals and we do not have any rights to do so. and if someone finds the fishes dying the oil- chocolate mousse a COOL thing then I guess humanity is a ‘JOKE’ now….let us try and protect our environment it is very much needed now…What say?

  23. obvi -  July 7, 2010 - 1:38 am

    I know that sarcasm doesn’t translate very well via text, but I feel certain that “magic texta” and “me” were, in fact, kidding. Obviously this oil spill is a horrible thing for the environment and the economies of the gulf coast. I don’t actually think “me” thinks that swimming in the chocolate mousse would be fun for them.

  24. lilymu12 -  July 6, 2010 - 11:15 pm

    I’d think the spill was cool if it was in a controlled environment. Something like a large, indoor tank filled with pure salt water. This would be used for pure science. I suggest they do this to experiment on how the oil would best be cleaned up. It would save a lot of time and effort and money.

  25. See? -  July 6, 2010 - 10:56 pm

    Oil spills are not “cool”, since they harm our ecosystem and pretty much what CONFUSED said. It costs a lot to remove them, kill and get animals sick. Imagine all the treatments the water will have to go through to make it consumable! All costing a very large sum of money. Anyways… those new vocabulary words were interesting to know.

  26. divya -  July 6, 2010 - 10:30 pm

    i am sure aquatic ecosystems hate chocolate mousse

  27. Kris -  July 6, 2010 - 9:18 pm

    Excellent article. Really helps clear up any confusion. Thank you kindly for the work you put into this.

  28. Grant -  July 6, 2010 - 9:07 pm


  29. Riversong -  July 6, 2010 - 8:42 pm

    re: “Confused” ….If there weren’t people that didn’t think that dangerous or toxic or potentially harmful things were “cool” (disseminating information is different than endorsing), we’d be without a lot of modern medicine, science and technology. So, while oil in the gulf is not cool, information describing our world (including the unpleasant parts) is very cool.

    After all, not talking about something doesn’t make it go away. And that’s not cool.

  30. Johnnie -  July 6, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    Hoho that’s sooooooooo funny,
    I laughed sooooooo hard

  31. Confused -  July 6, 2010 - 7:55 pm

    Why would someone think an oil spill is cool? People are out of work, business are closing and the ecosystem in the gulf is being destroyed by the constant flow of oil. I’m missing the part that is cool.

  32. Me -  July 6, 2010 - 7:48 pm

    @magic texta: i fully agree! i cant help thinking how fun it would be for the fishes! imagine swmming in chocolate mousse!!

  33. magic texta -  July 6, 2010 - 6:21 pm

    I think this oil spill is just like so way cool, ay?

  34. woo hoo -  July 6, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    Yum!!! I lurve chocolate mousse

  35. Xizi Luo -  July 6, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Interesting article, I learned some new words today!


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