You Say Duct Tape, I Say Duck Tape
It seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea: to wrap one’s midsection with a polyethylene, reinforced, multi-purpose pressure sensitive tape with a soft and flexible shell and pressure sensitive adhesive in order to reduce the swelling and bloating after a weekend of excessive cocktailing—all the sugar and salt in those margaritas, don’t you know.
A dear friend visiting from Washington, who shall remain nameless, didn’t want to look fat on his last night in Rehoboth. There’s nothing worse than too-tight madras shorts, the way the pattern stretches and all.
I suggested duck tape. Why not? Everyone, it seems, uses duck tape in some sort of resourceful manner. I’ve employed it myself as a splint for a broken toe and to patch cracked clapboard siding on my cottage. Just painted over it and nobody was the wiser.
Currently, I have duck tape on the ball of my left foot. It’s a home remedy to kill off a plantar wart. Don’t laugh. The Mayo Clinic website says many people have reported as good or better results using this unconventional method than over-the-counter acid and freezing treatments. Researchers hypothesize that this therapy may work by irritating warts and the surrounding skin, thereby prompting the body’s immune system to attack. I bet it’s the chemicals on the back of the tape.
Yes, everyone has a duck tape story. But few know the story of duck tape.
Adhesive masking tape was invented in the 1920s by 3M, the same people who devised the post–it note in the 1970s. The duck tape we’re familiar with was created during World War II by a division of Johnson & Johnson in order to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, people started calling it “duck tape.” Duck feathers repel water very effectively.
Also, the tape was made using cotton duck, a material which was also used in medical tapes.
Soldiers soon discovered the tape was versatile and useful for fixing guns, jeeps, aircraft, and uniforms. It was strong, yet ripped easy into strips for fast convenient use.
After the war, duck tape was used in the booming housing industry, especially to connect heating and air conditioning ducts together—hence we get the name “duct tape.” Or so say most conventional sources. William Safire of the New York Times disagrees slightly. Safire conducted his usually etymological research and proclaimed “duct tape” wasn’t used to describe the tape until the 1970s. The name has since caught on. Either articulation is correct, according to Safire. I favor the classic pronunciation.
Duck tape, you might be interested to know, comes in many colors nowadays, from fluorescent yellow and hot pink to camouflage and clear. It’s a simple product composed of three layers. The top layer is a resilient plastic (polyethylene). The bottom layer is a rubber-based adhesive. The middle layer is a fabric mesh. The tighter the weave, the better the tape.
Its uses seem endless. There are websites and Facebook pages where fans share instructions for making duck tape flip flops, wallets, and even prom dresses. Some people out there are reupholstering furniture with the stuff. Remember the infamous duck tape alert back in 2003? The Department of Homeland Security encouraged us to run out and buy rolls of it, along with sheets of plastic, to protect ourselves against biological, chemical, or radiological attack.
There’s a new anti-Proposition 8 photo campaign showing people with gray duck tape over their mouths and NOH8 painted on their cheek. Maybe you saw where Cindy McCain caused a stir earlier this year by agreeing to be photographed. Too bad she didn’t speak up when it could have made more of a difference.
Why is a simple gray adhesive tape so damn popular? Some say duck tape resonates with the American psyche and the battle for freedom and democracy. Others say it symbolizes America’s can-do attitude. I’m thinking it’s probably because Americans like a cheap quick fix.
Now, about that downstate duck tape corset. It never materialized. The more we talked about the possible painful ramifications of wrapping oneself with duck tape, the more my anonymous friend decided maybe it wasn’t too reasonable an idea after all. I kept urging him on, but he thought it better to just drink some more beer and wear a looser pair of shorts.
That, my friends, is real ingenuity.
Reach Rich Barnett and read more of his stories on Rehoboth at www.rehobothwithrich.blogspot.com.