Oxford English Dictionary Amends Negative Definition of "Biker"

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

The Oxford English Dictionary, which bills itself as the “most comprehensive dictionary of the English language”, has amended its definition of “biker” after motorcyclists complained about the negative image it portrayed.

Up until recently, the online edition of the OED defined a biker as “a motorcyclist, especially one who is a member of a gang: a long-haired biker in dirty denims.” At issue is the stereotype of a motorcyclist as having long hair and wearing dirty jeans.

The definition has been altered and 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.” Granted, most riders would probably prefer to be called a long-haired and wearing dirty jeans than get hit by a car, but the caricature in the previous definition proves to be both offensive and inaccurate.

According to The Daily Telegraph, a poll of 524 British bikers found 74% saying the old definition was inaccurate while 21% say they were “outraged and offended.” Just 2% of the riders polled say the old definition was “correct and accurate” while 60% say it was “dated and irrelevant.”

Nicola Burton, a spokesperson for the Oxford University Press which publishes the OED explains the change, which was made on Feb. 22.

“This change has been made to reflect a minor shift in contemporary use of the word ‘biker’,” Burton tells the Daily Telegraph. “Our research suggests ‘biker’ is now more closely aligned with ‘motorcyclist’ than words such as ‘hell’s angel’.

“We also updated the usage example, which is intended to provide an illustration of how the word could be used in a sentence.”

[Source: The Daily Telegraph, OED]

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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