Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Bikers are no longer hairy and dirty: Oxford dictionary revises definition to avoid offence
It certainly is silly to slur all motorbike riders but I wonder if that was what was going on? I think the original definition may still reflect common British usage. The term "biker" MAY mainly still be used to refer to scruffy gang members.
So are all motorbike riders "bikers"? Perhaps not. If you want to be expansive about it, pedal power people are also bikers.
The distinction is much clearer in Australia. In Australia a member of a motorcycle-based gang is referred to as a "bikie", not a "biker". And being a biker is quite respectable. I was once one myself
The lexicographers at the Oxford English Dictionary must have been worried when they were confronted by a group of angry bikers.
According to the OED definition of the breed, they turn up in gangs with ‘long hair’ and ‘dirty denims’.
And Britain’s two most famous bikers, TV cooks David Myers and Simon King, are so long-haired they frequently need ponytails.
However, the two-wheeled community has become fed up with the stereotype being perpetuated by the dictionary entry, which fell somewhere between the words ‘bijou’ and ‘bikini’.
They reasoned that the likes of Prince William, David Beckham and George Clooney also ride motorcycles and they could hardly be described as shaggy and unkempt. In fact, a survey had shown that only nine per cent of male bikers have long hair.
Faced with such evidence, the Oxford University Press, which publishes the OED, has decided to alter its definition.
The online version previously defined a biker as: ‘A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.’ It now reads: ‘A motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang or group: a biker was involved in a collision with a car.’
Almost three-quarters of 524 bikers polled over the old definition found it inaccurate. One in five were ‘outraged and offended’ by it.
Furthermore, 65 per cent said they spent most of their time riding alone – and were not in a gang.
The study, by insurance firm Bennetts, found today’s biker is most likely to be over 35, middle class, working in IT or telecoms and likely to ride a Honda. When the term ‘biker’ came into common usage 50 years ago, it often described gangs of leather-clad troublemakers.