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Sept. 8 represents both a boon and a bane to those precious
few of us who make some portion of our living writing trivia columns and
calendars, simply because Sept. 8 is a date on which a whole bunch of trivially
interesting events have occurred.

Take, for example, the obvious anniversary that perhaps the
largest number of global geeks might choose to celebrate: On Sept. 8, 1966, the
first episode of Star Trek appeared on
NBC television, marking the humble beginning of the most recognized and
successful science-fiction franchise in television history.

But the techno-military history buffs out there will
remember Sept. 8 as a day of particular infamy. On this date in 1944, the first
of Germany’s V2 rocket attacks on London took place. Of course, British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill would not publicly acknowledge the attacks until
Nov. 10 of that year, after more than 100 rockets had struck the city.

For sports enthusiasts, especially those of the non-American
variety, Sept. 8 marks the birth of the world’s first major professional
football (aka soccer) association. The English Football League, precursor to today’s
FA Premier League, kicked off on Sept. 8, 1888 as an organization of football
clubs in England and Wales.

One hundred and ten years later, American sports fans would
enjoy their own banner event on this date, when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home
run of the season for Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. This
much-anticipated hit shattered Roger Maris’ single-season home run record that
had stood since 1961. (Of course, only three years later, Barry Bonds of the
San Francisco Giants broke McGwire’s record and went on to hit 73 homers in

And, just for the old-school academics out there, the Massachusetts
Bay Colony formally chartered Harvard College (not yet a university), the first institute of higher learning in the New
World, on Sept. 8, 1636.

So, for the record, Harvard, Star Trek, and professional football (soccer) all share a birthday
on Sept. 8—and we haven’t even asked our weekly question yet.

On Sept. 8, 1930, a world-famous consumer product would ship
for the first time. It would soon become a household word despite the fact that
this brand name actually originated from an ethnic slur.


What world-famous product with a brand name derived from an
ethnic slur first debuted in 1930 on the trivia-heavy date of Sept. 8?

The product in question is Scotch tape, which on the
above-mentioned date delivered its first trial shipment to Shellmar Products
Corporation, a Chicago-based cellophane bakery wrap printer. And while many use
the term “scotch tape” to describe any kind of cellophane adhesive
tape, “Scotch” is actually an actively trademarked brand name held by

So where is the ethnic slur? Merriam-Webster defines the
adjective Scotch as merely a synonym
for Scottish, as in hailing from

One must look to the second definition of Scotch: Inclined to frugality. For those
of you too young or too decent to be up on your ethnic stereotypes, society has
sometimes characterized persons of Scottish descent as being fiscally stingy.
So, at least in Depression-era terms, you could use the adjective Scotch interchangeably with cheap.

How did an ethnic slur contribute to naming adhesive tape?
It actually came out of product testing. Existing types of adhesive tape were
ill-suited for creating two-tone paint finishes on customized cars, a highly
popular American fad in the years leading up to the 1929 stock market crash.

Product developer Richard Drew therefore gave an early
version of masking tape to a St. Paul auto painter for testing. However, this
version of the tape only had adhesive along its outer edges, rather than along
the entire width of the tape. Not surprisingly, the tape would not consistently
stick to the auto bodies during the paint process.

Thus, the unnamed St. Paul painter ostensibly told Drew, “Take
this tape back to those Scotch [meaning cheap] bosses of yours, and tell them
to put more adhesive on it!” To invoke a pun, both the name and the advice

Drew revised his design, which was a success and, a few
years later, created the popular cellophane with which most people associate
the trademark. Scotch tape became one of the few product success stories to emerge
from the Great Depression. Despite its tacky use of stereotypes, it does make
for some great Geek Trivia.

Gather round the IT water cooler at GeekRepublic

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The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of
this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article.
Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and
discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

Our latest quibble comes from TechRepublic member Rich.frueh, who responded to the Aug. 3
edition of Geek Trivia, “Before spam was

has a very well-researched page on the origins of Net spam,
including an attribution to me–though that’s only because I responded to a
survey of his, not that I’m a ‘Net guru.’ His conclusion is that it came from
the MUDs [multi-user-dungeons] in ’85, to Bitnet’s Relay, and so to the rest of
the Net. He also has the first-known spam e-mail—from 1978.”

I’m not certain this counts as an accredited repudiation,
but in the interests of equal time (and a dearth of other quibbles), we’ll run
with it.

The Trivia Geek, also
known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s
duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic
books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.