Vernacular Spectacular #5: “laser tag” versus “laser skirmish”

We recently gave this a go, but here we aren’t focused on that adventure but rather what “this” should be called. Let’s get down to business:

The “laser” part is a draw. So then: “tag” is a game for children, a “skirmish” is minor episode in a war between men. The activity involves trying to shoot your foes with laser guns. It’s “cops & robbers” with rifles. The name “tag” takes the edge of violence off of it, but anybody who needs to edge of violence taken off it shouldn’t be playing a game with guns anyway. As words go, “tag” is an ugly word and “skirmish” is a fun one, but “tag” goes much better with “laser”–“laser tag” rolls off the tongue and sounds zippy, whereas “laser skirmish” gets hung up in the r sounds. “laser tag” feels like it is taking-ordinary-tag-and-making-it-awesome.

Jeremy’s winner: laser tag (I hate this pick, because I love the word “skirmish,” and “laser skirmish” is still fresh and fun to my ear, but making picks based on novelty would be as great a sin as sentimentality.)

One thought on “Vernacular Spectacular #5: “laser tag” versus “laser skirmish”

  1. It’s called “laser skirmish” after the paintball company Skirmish. I was going to write a vernacular spectacular post for “skirmish” vs “paintball” so you could at least vote for “skirmish” there, but I’m not sure the term has become genericised enough to count as the default Australian word.

    Skirmish is clearly the better word, but “laser skirmish” is too unwieldy.

    Beckie’s winner: laser tag

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