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Oxford English Dictionary Redefines “Biker”

By February 27, 2013General Posts


Before today, if you had looked up the word “biker” in the Oxford English Dictionary, you would have found the following definition: “a motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.” With statical studies showing that only 9% of Britain’s bikers fit the long long-hair and “dirty denims” stereotype, 74% of all British motorcyclists felt the definition was inaccurate.

Bowing to pressure from Great Britain’s motorcycling community though, Oxford University Press (the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary) has redefined “biker” to fit with slightly more modern perceptions. Accordingly, the Oxford English Dictionary now defines a biker as, “a motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car.”

While the Oxford University Press scoffs at any mentioning of an Orwellian exercise in how language controls perception, the publisher says it only made the changes after it became clear that the term “biker” was aligning itself more closely with the word “motorcyclist,” while distancing itself from associations with motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels.

Motorcyclists, or bikers as it were, will likely take issue with the usage example though, which for reasons beyond our imagination uses the term “biker” in reference to a collision with an automobile. Perhaps, this usage is meant to show how “biker” can be linked more closely to those individuals who commute on their motorcycles, and thus are more likely to be involved in a collision with a car.

Or, considering how aggressive the British insurance industry is with motorcyclists, we can’t help but raise an eyebrow on the new wording for the OED’s “biker” definition, especially when the the main article covering the story, written by the The Telegraph, opts to include an lengthy background and opinion on the change from Bennetts Insurance Director of Marketing.

With that whole issue aside, the question remains though, do you make a distinction between the use of the word “biker” and “motorcyclist” when describing particular two-wheeled enthusiasts?