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"I'll Taser You," Tom Swift Said, Shockingly:

Commenter Sparky reports, and the Oxford English Dictionary confirms: The term "taser" comes from "Tom Swift's Electric Rifle." "Yup, THAT Tom Swift," writes Sparky; "He had an electric rifle in a 1911 story."

Sparky (and Wikipedia) report that it comes from "Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle" (Wikipedia: "The 'A' is gratuitous; the character's middle name was never provided"), though the OED doesn't say so.

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Michael Couvillion (mail):
I believe Verne had an "electric rifle" of sorts in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea". Contact-discharged high-voltage capacitor "bullets", if memory serves. In 1870.
11.21.2006 1:34pm
Gary McGath (www):
My guess is that the "a" was added to make it sound like "laser."
11.21.2006 1:49pm
reneviht (mail) (www):
"Stand back, or I'll tser you!"
11.21.2006 1:53pm
DavidS:
Lasers were first described theoretically in the 1950s and first manufactured in the 1960s. So, unless the term appeared earlier in science fiction to describe other light emitting weapons, it seems that LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) was engineered to sound like TASER, and not vice versa.
11.21.2006 2:09pm
Abdul (mail):

So, unless the term appeared earlier in science fiction to describe other light emitting weapons, it seems that LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) was engineered to sound like TASER, and not vice versa

Tom Swift, back in 1911, didn't call his electic rifle a TASER. The guy who invented the TASER in the 1980's created the acronym based on Tom Swift and, possibly, looked to rhyme it with "Laser."
Besides, his only other options were TOSER, TUSER, TISER and TESER. Unless he was Welsh, in which case he could have gone for TWSER.
11.21.2006 2:21pm
PersonFromPorlock:
IIRC, the laser, both as a technology and an acronym, followed on the analogous microwave-frequency MASER of a few years earlier.
11.21.2006 2:39pm
jimbino (mail):
And Laser, Maser and Taser should have the "s" pronounced as the "s" in "Swift" or "stimulated," not with a "z" sound as most folks pronounce it!
11.21.2006 2:55pm
JonC:
Ironically, the name of the current president of Taser, International is Thomas Smith.
11.21.2006 3:25pm
ksd:
I used to love Tom Smith! As a preadoloescent, I thought Tom was far more interesting than those pansy Hardy Boys. I remember great titles like Tom Swift and his Jetmarine and Tom Swift and his Ultrasonic Cycloplane. I still have a dozen or so Tom Swift books on the shelf waiting for my sons (7 and 3) to get a little older.
11.21.2006 4:39pm
Ian Argent (mail):
Ironically enough - both Tom Swift and the Hardy boys were written by the same author/company.
11.21.2006 6:21pm
Doc (in China) (mail):
The "A" is for "Alva". Added in to round out the name, and of course it's got that whole Edison thing going for it.
11.22.2006 12:42am
anonVCfan:
"Ironically," Smith is not the same as Swift.
11.22.2006 2:42pm
James Fulford (mail):
"Set Phasers on stun!" Star Trek's writers called their guns Phasers because if they equipped the Enterprise's crew with Lasers, they'd get all these letters from scientists saying "Lasers can't do that!" And the capability of stunning someone without killing him is one one the things that lasers can't do.

I have a feeling that that's what the company was thinking about when they came up with Taser, but I'm also sure that it would be a bad idea for them to say so, since they'd hear from Gene Roddenberry's lawyers.
11.23.2006 3:31pm