Taser or Tazer? Tazing or Tasering?
It wasn’t until I wanted to write about an incident in which a policeman applied a Taser to a ten-year-old girl that I needed to know if I should write tazed, tased, tazered, or tasered.
In trying to find out, I’ve discovered that the word spelled Taser is a registered trademark. It is an acroynm for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.”
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, or, Daring Adventures in Elephant Land is a young adult novel written by Victor Appleton. It is Volume 10 in the original Tom Swift novel series published by Grosset & Dunlap.
Jack Cover, the NASA researcher who began developing the Taser in 1969 was a Tom Swift fan so he named his invention for Tom’s fictional rifle.
Since I now know the origin of the word and that it is trademarked, I feel I should opt for the capitalized form with an s:The policeman used a Taser. The guard Tasered the man with the gun.
On the other hand, I don’t feel comfortable capitalizing verbs. I suppose there’s no reason we can’t adopt the non-trademarked “z” word and use it without a capital T:The policeman tazered the fugitve.
We could even choose the shorter verb form to taze, which echoes existing words such as haze and daze:The policeman tazed his assailant just in time.
I’m leaning towards Taser for the noun and taze, tazed, tazing for the verb.
What do the authorities have to say?
The AP Stylebook is no help with the verb. All it has under Taser is that the word is a capitalized acronym.
Likewise Merriam-Webster has an entry for the noun Taser, but nothing to help with the verb form.
The OED has examples with both Tasered and tasered:
1976 N.Y. Times Mag. 4 Jan. 31/3 When an attacker has been ‘Tasered’, the muscles in his body involuntarily contract; he is virtually helpless and may experience pain.
1993 B. CROSS It’s not about Salary 325 High on PCP and breakdancing in the street, [they] tasered him four times and he died.
2002 Edmonton (Alberta) Sun (Nexis) 21 July 21 City cops couldn’t say last night if tasering a woman allegedly resisting arrest yesterday was justified, but a couple who saw the incident believe excessive force was used.
2007 Metro (London ed.) 19 Sept. 11/2 A student was Tasered after asking too many questions at a university forum with US Senator John Kerry.
As these headlines show, I’m not the only one confused as to which verb form to use:
10-year-old is tasered by officer
Unruly Student Tazed at South Paulding, Georgia, High School
Pastor tazered by Arizona DPS
Woman Tasered in front of her children for “obstructing traffic”
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