Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Pet Peeve

The word bike is derived from the word bicycle. The "bi" part indicates two (as in wheels), while the "ke" evokes the hard "c" in cycle. A bicycle is a human-powered, two-wheeled vehicle. A motorcycle is not a bicycle, and thus is not a bike. If we followed the same etymological logic, a motorcycle would be a moke, not a bike. Allowances will be made for the word motorbike, which is acceptable. That is all.

14 comments:

  1. Hahaha! Did you recently have a conversation with someone about "bikes," and they thought motorcycles?

    That doesn't bother me that much, since I'm guilty of using "bike" when I used to have a motorcycle. In retrospect, I should've used "motorcycle" (or "moke"). I find myself clarifying which two-wheeled vehicle I used.

    Me: "I parked my bike around the corner."
    Person: "I heard about your Yamaha. You got that running again?"
    Me: "No, I meant my bicycle. It's locked to a parking meter."
    Person: "Oh ... you rode a bicycle all the way here [downtown] from your apartment [Golden Hill]?"
    Me: "... [gasface]"

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  2. Naw, I wish I had some funny story to accompany this post, it's just stuff I think about while I'm riding. Actually, I think the number of motorcycles posted in the "Bikes" section of Craigslist is what got me thinking about it. A lot of bicyclists object to being called "bikers" because that term is usually for motorcyclists, but I think it's time to reclaim it. And let's get "moke" started for motorcycles, I think it's catchy. Then, if you rode a motorcycle, you'd be a "moker."

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  3. I think motorbike -> bike is fair enough. I find the use of "biker" or "biking" rather jarring though when used to refer to cycling. It just sounds so frivolous and implies a lack of seriousness, to me at least.

    Matthew

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  4. Matthew, you have a good point about the lack of seriousness. For instance, the phrase "let's go ride our bikes" tends to sound juvenile. On the other hand, it also evokes how much fun it *should* be to ride, even as an adult.

    I still think the "motor" part is an important thing to include when referring to bikes that have motors. You know, mokes.

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  5. I feel the same as you, Thom. My parents ride motorcycles and even Vespas and call them "bikes." I tell people that I'm a bike mechanic, and they think I work on motorcycles. I've quit using the words "bike" or even "cycle," especially in my writing, choosing to stick firmly to "bicycle" so there is no mistake. Bicycles.

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  6. I like "moke" and will do my part to start a grassroots moke campaign in the midwest.

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  7. I did have one of those awkward conversations where they were talking about MOTORcycles and I was talking about BIcycles. He said something about riding a couple hundred miles and I was all, "Man, that is hard core!" And he kind of looked at me a bit funny...

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  8. I thikn you'll find a Moke is something altogether different! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Moke

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  9. I don't mind at all when I tell someone I'm taking a trip to ride bikes in the mountains, and when I clarify that I mean bicycles, they're even more impressed. I'm really something. ;)

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  10. @ balancedview: egad, that's an ugly vehicle!

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  11. "Motorbike" would only be acceptable if the vehicle where a motorized bicycle, which is impossible by your definition of bicycle as human powered. And you've already established that "bike" means bicycle.

    Let's take back our word!

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  12. Well, I wanted to give them a *little* slack! Don't want to be too polemical, you know. :)

    But I'm with you...

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  13. Should we look forward to a regular Monday peeve? My personal bicycle related one is unlubed chains! Squeak, squeak, squeak....

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  14. When I was traveling in South Asia I discovered that in Indian English, a "bike" usually refers to a motorcycle (with "two-wheeler" the more popular term for motorcycle), and a "cycle" refers to a bicycle. In South Asian English, you do not rent a bike, you hire a cycle.

    Fun times...

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