Taser or Tazer? Tazing or Tasering?
We discovered that some examples below might be an incorrect use of the trademark. Please check the update below with explanations from the trademark owner itself.
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”
Update provided by the trademark owner
Axon Enterprise, Inc. (formerly known as TASER International, Inc.) is the manufacturer of TASER conducted energy weapons and owner of the TASER brand, based in Arizona, USA. We appreciate that Daily Writing Tips, and Maeve Maddox, took the time to research, write, and post on a topic that is near and dear to our hearts: proper usage of our TASER trademark. However, we wanted to take this opportunity to correct some errors in the article, clarify some common misuses and misconceptions about how our TASER trademark should be used, and explain why proper trademark usage matters.
First, what is a trademark?
A trademark includes any indicia (e.g., word, name, symbol, sound, color, etc.) used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one provider from those of other providers, and to indicate the source of those goods or services. Put simply, a trademark is a source-identifying indicator that typically takes the form of a word, a phrase, and/or a design. For providers of goods and services, trademarks provide protection so that the provider can invest time and money into its brand without fear of others stealing or profiting off its hard work. For consumers, trademarks allow the consumer to confidently know that if they purchase a good or service bearing a trademark owned by “Provider A,” that good or service is coming from “Provider A.”
Why does proper trademark usage matter?
Correct trademark usage is important for a number of reasons (outside of improving your writing, of course). Of great importance to Axon, incorrect trademark usage can lead to a trademark becoming generic (referred to in trademark law as “genericide”). Once a trademark becomes generic it loses its trademark protection, the owner loses all rights in the trademark, and it becomes freely available for public use. For example, “aspirin” and “escalator” are famous examples of words that were once exclusive trademarks before becoming generic words for the associated products.
As you can imagine, the last thing a trademark owner would want after spending millions of dollars, and countless hours, building and promoting a brand is for its exclusive trademark to become generic and free for anyone to use for their own products or services. Not being able to associate a trademark with a specific provider of goods or services can also cause harm to consumers. Consider the consequences of purchasing a stun gun that appears to be a TASER stun gun, but actually is a cheap knock-off featuring poor construction and components. Is it reliable? Is it safe? Will it work when you are in a life-threatening situation? Losing a trademark to “genericide” can introduce consumers to these uncertainties and dangers.
So how should the TASER trademark be used?
A trademark should be used only as an adjective modifying a noun, and never by itself as a noun or a verb. Additionally, a trademark should never be used in a plural form unless the trademark itself is in a plural form. For example, correct uses of the TASER trademark include “TASER device” and “TASER weapon.” All verb forms of TASER are not correct uses of the TASER trademark, including “tase,” “tased,” “tasing,” “tasered,” and variations using the letter “z” instead of “s.” All plural forms of TASER are also not correct uses of the TASER trademark (e.g., “Tasers”). When in doubt remember that a trademark is meant to be a source identifier for the owner’s goods or services, so it should be used in combination with the generic name for that good or service (e.g., “TASER device”).
For more information about trademarks and proper trademark usage, the International Trademark Association (INTA) offers a great fact sheet available at http://www.inta.org/TrademarkBasics/FactSheets/Pages/TrademarkUseFactSheet.aspx.
Axon is a global network of devices, apps, training, and people that helps public safety personnel become smarter and safer. With a mission of protecting life, our technologies give customers the confidence, focus, and time they need to protect their communities. Our products impact every aspect of a public safety officer’s day-to-day experience.
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