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Heymatt:

This is a question about the most useful stuff in the world: duct tape. I used to call it duck tape until some friends laughed at me and said no, it’s duct tape. With a t, not a k. Okay. So now I call it duct tape. Until the other night when some old guy said that it’s not duct tape, it’s really duck tape. He said he was right because he remembers a time when his father and his friends all called it duck tape. Okay. I give up. What do you tape with this stuff, ducts or ducks?

— Very Confused Duct/Duck Tape Fan, via email

Gotta fix a leaky duct? Use duct tape. Must subdue an unruly duck? Use duck tape. But originally, nobody was wrapping ducts or ducks with the stuff. In the beginning was the Department of Defense. During WWII the feds asked Johnson & Johnson (the Band-Aid people) to develop a material that could be wrapped around ammunition cases to keep them dry. Once the soldiers got ahold of the stuff, though, they found a million other uses around the base for the strong, waterproof tape. Because rain rolled right off it and it was green, somebody got the idea to call it “duck tape.” Granted, it’s a name that was known only within the military. But once the war ended, J&J knew they had a gold mine in the versatile stickum, especially during the postwar building boom, when it proved perfect for sealing lengths of air ducts. Natch, it became “duct tape” to the installers and everybody else on the site. J&J axed the green, switched to silver (to match the ducting), and duct tape was born. But yeah, originally its nickname was duck. (And there now is a Duck Tape brand on the market.) So I guess if you want to be a real tape insider, you can smugly call it duck tape, then regale your critics with the true history of the stuff. A modest goal for life improvement.

As small side notes, electricians (gaffers) on movie sets call the stuff gaffer’s tape. And in a fascinating interview we once had with a female impersonator at Lips, we learned that duct tape is perfect for taping up back fat so it doesn’t show and for squeezing out some alluring cleavage.

Heymatt:

There is some strange radio station, FM, at approximately 104.7 or maybe 104.9, and it plays classical music without stop, 24 hours a day, and there is never any human voice or station identification. One selection will end, and there’ll be a couple of seconds’ delay, and then another selection will start. I assume it’s some pirate station. I live in University City, so maybe if you live farther away, you won’t get it.

— Bob, University City

“The top 400 hits of the last 400 years.” That’s the motto of XLNC 104.9 FM. It’s no pirate. It’s the only remaining classical music station in the SD-TJ area. Bilingual, noncommercial perpetual Puccini 24/7. The station was founded by Mexican radio king Victor Diaz. At one time he owned pretty much every big station in the border region: Radio Latina, Fiesta Mexicana, Jammin’ Z90, and Hot Country. In the 1990s he started a campaign against smut on the airwaves, in particular KGB’s Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw. Unfit for children’s ears, he declared. Phooey, we declared.

Diaz made his millions on pop, salsa, and hip-hop, but his true love was Bach, Beethoven, and the rest of the longhairs. In 1998 he put up XLNC as streaming audio on the Internet. By 2000 he had a Mexican transmitter and simulcast the classics to the SD-TJ region. Unfortunately, he was (illegally) assigned a frequency that interfered with L.A.’s Pacifica outlet, KPFK. The station finally moved to 104.9 this year. They have only a puny 1000 watts of power, so their listening area is fairly small. XLNC can’t be heard at all in North County.

Diaz himself bankrolled the station until 2002, when it began running pledge drives. The station’s transmitter may be in Mexico, but its business offices are in Chula Vista, so they qualify as a public-benefit corporation in California and can beg for funds from listeners. They’ve done well enough to keep them on the Internet and the airwaves for the past six years. Plucky little operation.

Hey, Matt:

Why do paper cuts hurt so much? They’re just tiny slits in our fingers, but they hurt like crazy.

— Lisa, El Cajon

Ah, the insidious paper cut. Painful, annoying, the smallest of all wounds that attracts the most attention. Our bodies contain kazillions of nerve endings, and two places have more than their share: lips and fingertips. Any fingertip cut will hurt more because there are more pain sensors sending ouch! messages to our brains. If you can learn how to handle paper with your toes, you’ll be much safer.

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