And You Call Yourself A Biker?

rockstore-5501The Oxford English Dictionary, (OED) was started four years before the outbreak of the Civil War, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the world’s most comprehensive single-language dictionary in print.  The online edition receives 2 million hits per month from paying subscribers.  So, we’ll concede they know a thing or two about the English language.

So it was a little surprising but not unwelcome when the Wall Street Journal reported recently that the Oxford (OED) had “softened” the pejorative  or negative connotation of the word “biker” in its online dictionary.

In the beginning, the term was defined as people who rode bicycles.  Of course in 1903, the Davidson brothers and Mr. Harley attached an engine to a bicycle frame and 50 years later the word “bikers” became synonymous with dirty long hair, denim, leather and tattoos and most often associated with “motorcycle gang members.”

Now OED has tweaked their definition a bit, including the word “motorcyclist” in the description.    Calling someone a motorcyclist brings to mind a more wholesome, family image of a hobbyist.  A “biker” is much more likely to be someone who is interested in the more hardcore aspects of the two wheel lifestyle, such as drinking and partying.

The OED online site still lists the colloquial term as someone who rides a bicycle.  The next official definition is “A motorcyclist, esp. a member of a motorcycle club or gang.”   

But wait a sec!  The article in the WSJ says the dictionary uses the term “one who is a member of a gang or group.”    But either the Wall Street Journal got it wrong, or someone at Oxford changed the words group to motorcycle club after WSJ posted their story.

Not a big difference, but subtle enough to change the connotation.  As someone who rides two wheels,  is Oxford is saying that to be called a “biker” you have to belong to a MC or a gang?

However, if you thought for a minute the explosion in popularity of the motorcycle subculture had erased any social stigma attached to the two wheel lifestyle, (esp with the stuffy high brow folks who edit English language dictionary’s) then you’re mistaken.

To prove my point, OED defines the term “biker bar” as n. a bar frequented by motorcyclists, esp. one regarded as disreputable.    

The only thing we’re left wondering is “how many bikers  does it take to constitute a biker bar?”  

 

 

Hells Angels and Vagos In Shootout Near Prescott Arizona

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputies and SWAT members who responded to reports about gunfire on Saturday August 21st, around 12:15pm discovered the Hell’s Angels and Vagos Motorcycle clubs were involved in a altercation that resulted in over 50 shots being exchanged between members of the two clubs.

Police are not saying what prompted the shooting, which injured 5, and according to various reports at least one other club member was injured and fled the scene and has not been located.

photo from venicebeach.org

Observers say the altercation was unavoidable given the close proximity of the rival club member residences.

According to the website Clutch and Chrome, a member of the Hells Angels lives at 2640 Yuma Drive and a member of the Vagos gang lives at 2920 Yuma Drive.

Witnesses told police the Hells Angels were having a party at their members house when a group of the Vagos rode by and were fired upon.

A total of twenty-seven Vagos and Hells Angels club members were arrested on a variety of  charges such as  Aggravated Assault, Attempted Homicide, Endangerment, Participation in a Criminal Street Gang, and Unlawful Assembly.

The Vagos were formed in San Bernardino, California during the 1960′s. The club’s insignia is Loki, the Norse god of mischief, riding a motorcycle and members commonly wear green and are reported to have approximately 300 members among 24 chapters located in the American states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and three chapters located in Mexico.

The Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Their primary motto is “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets”  Currently, Hells Angels

photo from NYDailyNews.com

claims 3000 to 3500 members and more than 230 chapters in 27 countries. Membership has increased by 10% annually during the past five years, according to law enforcement records.