For some reason, I know I will need to find again, some day, the following letter to the Telegraph of 26.6.04 from Will Howard of Auckland, New Zealand.
Sir – M J Carr is not really wrong in calling duct tape “duck tape” (Letters, Jun 24), for that was the original name. It was first made during the Second World War and was used to seal ammunition boxes to keep moisture out; as it was made of cotton duck, and waterproof, it was called duck tape.
After the war, refrigeration and air-conditioning installers found it useful for joining their ducting and this soon became its major use, so the manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson, changed the colour from khaki to silver to match the ducting, and the name was corrupted to duct tape. And now we can’t live without it. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Well, yes, it is fascinating to some of us. Interesting enough, anyway, to take me to Wikipedia to add in a bit more (including a by-the-way on gaffer tape) before tucking the subject away for now …
Duct tape or duck tape is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure-sensitive tape often coated with polyethylene. There are a variety of constructions using different backings and adhesives. One variation is gaffer tape designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape is not. Another variation is heat-resistant duct tape useful for sealing heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, produced because standard duct tape fails quickly when used on heating ducts. Duct tape is generally gray or black but also available in other colors.
During World War II, Revolite, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on ammunition cases during World War II.
The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) have written seven books about duct tape. Their bestselling books have sold over 1.5 million copies and feature real and unusual uses of duct tape. In 1994 they coined the phrase “it ain’t broke, it just lacks duct tape”. Added to that phrase in 1995 with the publication of their book about lubricant WD-40 book was, “Two rules get you through life: If it’s stuck and it’s not supposed to be, WD-40 it. If it’s not stuck and it’s supposed to be, duct tape it”. Their website features thousands of duct tape uses from people around the world ranging from fashions to auto repair. The combination of WD-40 and duct tape is sometimes referred to as “the redneck repair kit”.
My own contribution to the subject would be the discovery, from the film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, that duck tape in hillbilly country is known as Alabama Chrome.