Scotch tape (was: Ameliorated words of offensive origin)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sun Mar 4 22:31:48 UTC 2001

According to the 3M Company's own web site

The worldwide popularity of 3M's transparent tape has made the term "Scotch
tape" a virtual synonym for "tape." In fact, however, Scotch is a brand name,
exclusive to the 3M family of 900 pressure-sensitive adhesives.

Today, the Scotch brand name assures quality. But roughly 75 years ago, it
originated from a fit of pique at an economy measure.

Richard Drew had just invented the first masking tape designed to help auto
painters to make two-tone paint applications, a Roaring '20s craze, neat and
easy. Drew was eager to have the tape sampled by its intended customers.

He brought a prototype roll to a St. Paul auto painter. The painter carefully
applied the masking tape along the edge of the color already painted and was
just about to spray on the second color when the tape fell off. The annoyed
painter examined the 2-inch wide tape and saw that it had adhesive only along
its outer edges, but not in the middle.

Annoyed, the painter said to Drew, "Take this tape back to those Scotch
bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!"

The name – like the improved tape it inspired – stuck.

Scotch is a trademark of 3M.


A different but apparently equally official page from the 3M Company

tells about the same story:

3M finally named this new product 'Scotch' Brand masking tape and has been
trying to explain why ever since. One story has become plausible legend. When
the masking tape was first sold, the company, as an economy measure, applied
adhesive only to the outer edges of the two-inch strips, leaving the center
plain. One edge was to be taped to the paper, the other to the car to hold
the masking paper in place. 3M's stinginess with the glue turned out to be a
new headache to car painters, for the partially coated tape didn't stick too
well, and the story is that these painters growled at 3M salesmen, "Why be so
Scotch with the adhesive?" Soon, the tape was officially trademarked "Scotch"

       - Jim Landau

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