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Don't Tase me, bro

Mrs. B. writes to inquire about the proper past tense for the verb to Taser:

I've emailed the Taser company but have not received a response.

I'm thinking you might get one or you might know the answer.

Is the verb "Tasered" or "Tased"?

I hear from anchors and reporters who want to be correct.

It’s not a surprise that you haven’t received a response. Here’s how to get one. Use either Tasered or Tased in published or broadcast material, and you will very likely get a lawyer letter informing you that TASER is a registered trademark of TASER International and is not to be used at all as a verb, or, for that matter, as a noun except in reference to the products of TASER International. The letter may also suggest that you use the little trademark symbol with TASER. Generic references to an electronic stunning device are acceptable. Go and sin no more.

The practical effect of such letters is typically small. Companies retain law firms to send out such letters to display that they are vigilant about protecting their proprietary rights to product names.

Of course the video from last September at the University of Florida — find it on YouTube if you haven’t already seen it — at which the kid being stunned uttered the famous line from which I take today’s title, shows that the verb has lodged in the language. At least temporarily. And I doubt that there is much that TASER International can do about it, except perhaps shrug it off as free advertising.

But since I’m asked for one of my curbside rulings: Use taser as a verb and restrict tase to quoted matter. Maybe you’ll get a lawyer letter telling you to capitalize the words.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 6:24 PM | | Comments (16)
        

Comments

On my blog Excited-Delirium.com, I use 'Taser' for the company, 'taser' for the weapon, and 'tasered' for the past tense of the verb. I even looked up the rules about using trademarks without permission and I've put that disclaimer on my blog. Cheers.

It's a strong verb:

tase - tose - tasen

In our police reports, we use "stun" or "shock" as the verb, which are things that are done with a Taser. We'll capitalize it, even though we're not certain that's the brand the officers use, in deference to the fact that "taser" hasn't been around long enough to be its own word. We'll also use "stun gun" instead.
Police-issue tasers can be applied to the body (not as effective) or they shoot two probes that embed themselves in the skin, with wires that attach to the main device (much more effective). So we'll use something descriptive like that. "The officer shot two electric shock probes at the suspect, but one missed."

I think it's also worth mentioning that the weapon the police officer(s) used on the student at UoF wasn't even a Taser -- It was a stun-gun. Law enforcement officers are trained to only use a Taser (which is a ballistic weapon) on people considered violent threats, when they want to disable/subdue the subject from a distance.

If he'd said "Don't stun me, bro!" he'd have more of my sympathy but perhaps no credit for this worn-out meme.

It's referred to as "ass", or "kiss my", or "go fly a kite" in reference to trying to assert trademark over a word itself due to there being multiple brands of tasers.

Sometimes people really need to start standing up for their freedoms, because they don't realize that the short term convenience doesn't weigh out the long term impact of stifling your own speech.

I don't really see a problem with using it as a verb. If anything, sending cease and desist letters would be pointless, both a waste in time, and possibly a waste of income.

There are innumerable companies out there that have turned their trademarked names into verbs or nouns. Two prime examples would be Kleenex and Coke, both of which are brands, but now are synonymous with their products, used instead of the actual correct name.

It's free advertising of the best kind, one that lodges in the brain. Yet, a company would sue for this kind of fame? (or infamy, as the case may be). Sheer foolishness.

Matt, I think you're missing the point - "Taser" wasn't a word until the company created it; they didn't hijack an existing word. (I didn't know this until now.) In my nearly meaningless opinion, the company should reasonably be entitled to assert the originality of the word as referring to their product alone... which is what branding and trademarking is all about. They're not really saying "don't use the word," they're trying to remind the public that "Only we make the Taser, so if you want to buy one, you know, call us..."

Tase and Taser are two separate verbs,

One is informal, one is formal/corporate speech.

The corporate view would want to discourage the informal usage in favor of the formal, pushing their own branding and marketing awareness.

Matt:

There is only one brand of TASER, from the company by the same name. There are several brands of electronic personal defense weapons, misnomered as "tasers".

Just as "Band-Aid" is a specific company, or Vasoline, they entered the common tongue by means of mis-use. They are "adhesive strips" and "petroleum jelly", respectively. It's taken YEARS for these companies to get the public back in line.

Picture calling any car you see a Porche.

The fact that you do not make the distinction shows your own limit to you freedom to an education.

Sorry Erik, but there are not "multiple brands of tasers". There are multiple brands of electroshock weapons. Taser is one of those brands, but the brand name has been coined in reference to any similar weapon in much the same way as many people refer to any kind of tissue as a kleenex despite Kleenex being the name of only a specific brand.

I wonder, what is the impact of calling something what it actually is rather than using a brand name that may not even be accurate to the item you are describing?

"Dont Bore Me" Bro as in bore, bored, boring Bro. patent that !

Sorry, I meant that in reference to Matt's comment, not Erik.

Or is it tosen?

I can never remember my past participles.

I think in the south they say tosen.

I think I'm going to hold the line against "taser" as a verb at least a little while longer. I think it's worth seeing if it's a passing colloquial fad or is going to entrench itself in the vernacular. In my opinion, it's too soon to definitively say.

" ... your own limit to you
freedom to an education."

You're lecturing someone about education? The grammar police ought to tase you.

Ah what a great dream, that I were so famous that everyone referred to any poet as a "jeanne"! Taser Inc has too much time, & perhaps money, on their hands if they think they have to pay lawyers to do something about this "problem". It is, indeed, free advertising of the best sort. Once everyone knows your name, they will jump at the opportunity to buy your product or employ you preferentially over all those wanna-be's, given the chance. Taser lawyers need to get a life. If they don't have enough to do, they can always donate their time to poor people who need help with civil lawsuits, a crying and virtually unfunded need in all communities throughout the United States.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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