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‘Fixing to ride the lightning’ meaning: Is it military slang for using a taser?

Bruno Cooke April 12, 2021
‘Fixing to ride the lightning’ meaning: Is it military slang for using a taser?

What is the meaning of “ride the lightning” – is it a military term, or slang for using a taser? According to Reuters Press, Windsor Police Department officer Joe Gutierrez allegedly told Army lieutenant Caron Nazario that he was “fixing to ride the lightning” before tasering him in an incident that took place on 5 December 2020.

‘Fixing to ride the lightning’ slang meaning

The Free Dictionary lists “ride the lightning” as an idiom, primarily heard in the US.

According to the site, the meaning of “fixing to ride the lightning” alludes to being put to death by means of the electric chair.

To “give (someone) the chair” is a synonymous phrase, meaning to execute by electrocution, by means of an electric chair.

Metallica Ride the Lightning (1984)

Metallica used the phrase for the name of their 1984 album, Ride the Lightning. Ride is the second studio album from the heavy metal band, released 1984. 

The eponymous (title) track includes the following lyrics: “Death in the air / Strapped in the electric chair / This can’t be happening to me”.

Similarly, the album artwork depicts an electric chair being struck by lightning.

Or… is it a military phrase for using a taser?

In the above definition, given that the formal phraseology would be “to put to death by means of an electric chair”, “ride the lightning” is a colloquial, idiomatic slang phrase.

However, an article on the U.S. Army Reserve Official Website titled “Ride the lightning” describes the process by which a particular group of trainees learned “the full capabilities of the X26E Taser”.

Source: US Army Reserve

The X26E Taser causes neuromuscular incapacitation. Whether or not tasers in general are deadly is a matter of debate.

This ambiguity about what “riding the lightning” means could be hugely operative in the federal complaint involving Nazario and Gutierrez, which is ongoing.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.