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Scotch tape

What is the Real Meaning Behind the World “Scotch”?

Whenever we use clear adhesive tapes or cellulose tapes, we often use the term Scotch Tape to describe it. While it is widely accepted to use the brand name as a generic term, the trademark brand actually has an interesting origin story. What is the meaning behind the Scotch name?

The word “scotch” used to be a synonym for “thrifty” or “frugal.” The cellulose tape was invented during the Great Depression and was named “scotch tape” since it could prolong the life of things and save money.

The History Behind the Scotch Tape

In 1923, Richard Drew was appointed as the laboratory technician at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing company, which will be later on known as 3M. At the time, the company focused on producing sandpaper and that was Drew’s main responsibility. 

The company started doing research on cellophane and was aiming to invent a waterproof cover. This particular material piqued Drew’s interest and he started studying its properties and composition. After noticing his initiative, the company assigned him to work closely with their new sandpaper brand called Wetordry

During his time observing workers using their sandpaper. He noticed that the technicians were having a hard time painting certain parts of the car. They often ended with an uneven border, Drew promised to invent something that would help the technician’s difficulties especially when painting two-toned cars. After some time, Drew came back with a 5 cm tape that had adhesives along the edges. Unfortunately, it did not work out as planned since the adhesives were only applied to the outer part of the tape. It took a while for Drew to perfect his invention, and by 1930 the first adhesive tape roll was sent to Chicago to be tested. 

The name Scotch Tape came from the time Drew had to bring his invention to their bosses in Scotland. At the time, Scots were known for their frugality and it was not uncommon to call something Scotch when you meant something was inexpensive. 

Drew is known to be the inventor of the world’s first transparent cellophane adhesive tape. He lived a long and happy life, and passed away in Santa Barbara, California in 1980. (Source: All Spares)

The Trade Name and Using it as a Generic Term

As mentioned, the trademark Scotch Tape is also used as a generic term. The Scotch brand itself makes a variety of adhesives, backing, and tape today but when did they start actually using the name?

The brand name Scotch was used in 1925, this was back when Drew was still testing his first cellulose tape and to determine how much adhesive was needed when a technician said something in relation to having the tape checked by their Scottish bosses.

Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it.

Unnamed Technician

The name stuck and was applied to the entire adhesive line of 3M tapes. (Source: Consumer Reports)

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