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Duck Tape or Duct Tape? We’re All Correct
Mar 30/17

Duck Tape or Duct Tape? We’re All Correct Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

Southerners are not always known for proper pronunciation of words. In fact, the when we say things like “fixin’ to” and “holler” and “tarnation” it’s a point of pride for most of us.

And we will admit that’s sort of endearing, but Southerners are also known for messing up words like saying saying
I put my sweater in the chest r drawers, or “Oh, I have a great ideer,” or even worse, “A great ideal.”

So, it’s no wonder we might be confused about the correct pronunciation of things as ubiquitous and handy as duct tape. Or is it “duck tape”? We can’t be sure. We grew up hearing it one way, and it’s gray like the duct-work under the house, but there’s a photo of a duck on the package. If you take a sec to read the package, it says “duck tape.”

Which one is correct? Well, as it turns out, they both are. 

Duct tape was originally named “Duck” tape and originally only came in green, not silver.

Duct tape was originally invented by Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel division during WWII for the military. The military specifically needed a waterproof tape that could be used to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. This is why the originally Duct tape came only in army green.

As to why it was originally called “Duck” tape by the soldiers isn’t entirely known. It is commonly thought that because it was green and shed water, like a duck, the soldiers took to calling the tape “Duck” tape.  Soldiers began noticing it wasn’t just good for waterproofing ammunition casings, but also worked great for repairing things. They began using it for repairing jeeps, guns, and aircraft. Due to its waterproof nature, strength, and built in adhesive, they even began using it as a temporary means to close up wounds in emergencies; this is fitting because the closest predecessor of duct tape was also a Johnson & Johnson product used as medical tape.

So how did “Duck” tape eventually come to be known as “Duct” tape and be sold primarily silver in color instead of army green? When the soldiers of WWII came home, they brought “Duck” tape with them. Shortly after their return, the housing market was booming. Some manufacture then got the bright idea to start selling it as a means to connect heating and air conditioning ducts; this idea caught on among home manufacturers and they started using it in many of the new homes being built. To allow for this usage, the tapes primary color was switched from green to silver, so that it would match the ducts. Soon the tape began being referred to as “Duct” tape instead of “Duck” tape.

Ironically, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Environmental Energy Division concluded that you should never use Duct tape to seal ducts. Their tests showed that under typical duct conditions, duct tape becomes brittle and will fail quickly. Duct tape also can catch on fire or just smolder and produce toxic smoke. Because of this, it’s usage on ducts has been prohibited in building codes in most of the U.S.

So there you have it - not one of those southernisms with words, just an interesting history of an iconic product. 

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