Since I spend a good portion of my time writing about motorcycles, I try to be hyper aware about my word choice and how those phrases convey the point I'm trying to make.
One particular term that has always struck me as prickly is the word "biker." It sounds straightforward enough, but it's also long been associated with negative stereotypes of the motorcycle community. So naturally, I was intrigued when I came across this seemingly trivial bit of news: the Oxford Dictionary Online once defined a "biker" as "a motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang," but they've now added the words "... or group" to the end of that sentence, a small change with a big effect. According to an Oxford University Press statement, "Our research suggests that 'biker' is now marginally more closely aligned with 'motorcyclist' ('a person who rides a motorcycle') than words such as 'hell's angel' ('a member of any of a number of gangs of male motorcycle enthusiasts, first formed in California in the 1950s and originally notorious for lawless behaviour')"
Ladies and gentlemen, this seemingly inconsequential news item is huger than it seems: cagers and otherwise non two-wheel embracing folks are perhaps starting to wrap their heads around the idea that motorcyclists aren't necessary bar hopping, broken bottle wielding gang members out to seduce your teenage daughters and contribute to the general moral decay of society. I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill, but this slightly tweaked dictionary definition speaks volumes about how non-riders view our little world.
What's been your experience? Is the word "biker" no longer as loaded as it once was?
Share your thoughts below with a comment.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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