Where did the word ‘Taser’ come from? A century-old racist science fiction novel

345024180_500c0e896c_mThanks to its ignominious usage by law enforcement agencies beset with charges of prejudice inspired brutality against the civilian population, tasers have become a stable part of the US American lexicon. The weapon was originally designed to be a comparatively safe yet effective method of controlling suspects. However, the origin of this device’s name is also stepped in racist ideology.

As revealed in a November 2015 issue of the Guardian, Jack Cover, the physicist-inventor of the infamous stun gun, named his martial brain-child after a fictional weapon described in the book, Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. Released in 1911, the novel tells the story of White hunter who, armed with an electric rifle, travels to Africa in search of ivory. The name TASER is an acronym composed of the first letters in the phrase: Tom A Swift’s Electric Rifle. As Guardian author J. Lartey muses, it is more than a little unsettling that this popular weapon was “first imagined in a book in which ‘civilized’ whites entered the black wilds for the purpose of plunder, only to cast themselves as the saviors of the natives.”