In one of my first Grammar Guardian columns, I wrote about “duct tape,” and how funny it is to hear people refer to it as “duck tape.” A reader sent an email to me saying she felt the same way until she looked up the history of the tape. I decided to start the new year with a bit of trivia for readers about duct/duck tape.

I turned to The Great Idea Finder, a Web site “celebrating the spirit of invention.” This is their version of the duct vs. duck dilemma:

“Duct tape (the WWII military version) was first created and manufactured in 1942 (approximate date) by the Johnson and Johnson Permacel Division. The original use was to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases. Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as ‘Duck Tape.’ Also, the tape was made using cotton duck, similar to what was used in their cloth medical tapes. Military personnel quickly discovered that the tape was very versatile and used it to fix their guns, jeeps, aircraft, etc. After the war, the tape was used in the booming housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning ductwork together. Soon, the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ductwork and people started to refer to duck tape as ‘Duct Tape.’”

Interesting story. Guess I’ll have to stop cringing when I hear people call it “duck” tape.

One of my favorite Grammar Guardians brought up a word we see quite often in the Rio Grande Valley because our beautiful weather allows us to cook out nearly year-round. That word is “barbecue.” Though it is common to see restaurants refer to it as “BBQ” and BAR-B-QUE, the actual spelling is “barbecue.”

While I was in Illinois over the holidays, I decided to give a couple of my nieces an impromptu one-word spelling quiz to see if they could do better than my students did. I asked them to spell the word “yea,” as in, “Yea. You did a great job on that presentation.” I cringed when they agreed that it is spelled “y-a.” I told them they were using a Spanish word that means to stop doing something or that something is finished, which made them laugh. They insisted they were spelling the word correctly. My niece, Claire, who is eight years old, made me prove it to her in the dictionary. When I asked my students how to spell it, they insisted it is spelled “yay.”

Another Grammar Guardian asked me to address the pronunciation of the word “jaguar.” Occasionally, I am guilty of saying, “jag-wire,” knowing it is incorrect. I turned to I love how you can press on the speaker and get the correct pronunciation. There are two correct pronunciations of this word:

(jag'wär', jag'yoo-är'). I didn’t know the second pronunciation was correct, so I learned something new again this month.

My goal for 2009 is to provide a quiz at the end of each Grammar Guardian column. For the true Grammar Guardians out there, the quizzes will be simple. For those still learning, it will be a good way for you to become Grammar Guardians yourselves. This month’s quiz requires you to choose the correct word for the following sentences:

1. Their/They’re/There are seven days in a week.

2. Their/They’re/There mom works at HEB.

3. Their/They’re/There going to the mall after school Tuesday.

4. Do you think their/they’re/there having fun?

5. Why didn’t you go to their/they’re/there Christmas party?

I’ll provide the answers next month. Until then, thanks for guarding our grammar.