WOTY Candidate: Tase

Sun Dec 23 21:14:16 UTC 2007

        Fred Shapiro has already named "Don't tase me, bro" as the
quotation of the year, and the verb to tase, meaning to shock with an
electroshock weapon meant to stun from a distance, also seems a
plausible candidate for word of the year.  The earliest use of the verb
I see is from the Miami Herald (via Westlaw) on 5/27/1984:

        <<The Los Angeles Police Department most frequently uses the
Taser to quiet drugged suspects, particularly those on PCP.

        "They are as strong as gorillas, and we have female police
officers who are five feet tall," Cudio said. "It wouldn't make sense to
punch it out. So those people get Tased.">>

        Tase is a back-formation from taser.  According to Wikipedia,
and news articles from 2006 and 2007 that it cites in support, "taser"
is an acronym for Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, in reference to the
fictional character Tom Swift.  Tom Swift did not, I believe, have a
middle name or initial in the stories, and the original name of TASER
Systems, Inc., the now-defunct company that made the earliest tasers,
was TSER Systems, Inc.  Apparently the a was added to make the acronym
easier to pronounce and to enhance the resemblance to "laser" and
"maser."  The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 1983 registered "Taser"
to TASER Systems, Inc. as a trademark for a "Non-Lethal Firearm -
Namely, a Hand-Held Gun which Pyrotechnically Fires Electrically
Conductive Darts Causing Incapacitation."  The trademark was issued in
1983, with a first use in commerce of 19741100.  That mark was canceled
May 13, 2004, but there are existing "Taser" marks owned by Taser
International, Inc.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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