Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Bicycling

This probably seems a really odd thing to have as a blog entry, but I find the way people use the English language to be of interest. I first saw the word bicycling when I was in the US in San Francisco back in 2003 for a visit to a friend and it was on a board on their transit system and at the time I was astounded at the word being used, because to me it isn’t a valid word, and how much I tried to find a definition of it, I couldn’t. I do wish I had taken a picture of the board, because it caused a lot of laughs to me and others at the time. But it has come to the fore again for me when I read my weekend paper, the Observer

There was an article in it, that was about one of the MPs in parliament who had been promoted to Education Secretary for the Tories, and he listed one of the things he likes to do is bicycling. To me there is no such damn word and to use it makes no sense. I asked others I know, apparently it is said a lot on the continent, they say I am bicycling. To me the word they should be using is cycling. Unless the grammar changed without me knowing, which is more than possible, I thought it had to be cycling. You don’t hear it said that the riders in the tour de France are bicycling, they are cycling and are cyclists. I know that you are riding a bicycle, but when you are using it in the context of what you are doing, you say I am cycling or I am a cyclist, not I am bicycling or I am bicyclist.

If anyone, anyone at all knows the proper context of this, I would love to know, and if they know when it changed as well, because to my knowledge it has always been cycling and cyclist.

5 comments:

Tessa said...

Both words can be used. My New Oxford Dictionary of English gives the noun bicycle with its derivatives, bicycling and bicyclist. Popular colloquial usage has shorted the word to cycle, also in my dictionary, describing it as a bicycle or a tricycle. As before, cycling and cyclist are perfectly acceptable.

I have a very tatty old book, "The Boys' Own Annual", dating from 1881-82. It has several articles on 'Bicycling' - no mention of 'cycling', which probably came into popular usage during the first half of the twentieth century.

Tessa said...

Both words can be used. My New Oxford Dictionary of English gives the noun bicycle with its derivatives, bicycling and bicyclist. Popular colloquial usage has shorted the word to cycle, also in my dictionary, describing it as a bicycle or a tricycle. As before, cycling and cyclist are perfectly acceptable.

I have a very tatty old book, "The Boy's Own Annual", dating from 1881-82. It has several articles on 'Bicycling' - no mention of 'cycling', which probably came into popular usage during the first half of the twentieth century.

Tessa said...

No way to contact you on your Blog. Is there an error with your comment posting? My earlier comment here in reply to your "Bicycling" entry is not showing up although it appears when I click on 'Post a comment'. (Sorry, I somehow managed to creat two virtually identical entries!)

Tessa said...

Well, posting another comment apparently cleared the 'bug'! Feel free to delete the duplicate entry posted at 12:13 am.

Speakers Corner said...

Thank you Tessa for explaining that both can be used. I guess I will have to get used to the idea that I wasn't seeing an incorrect use of English, rather that there is more than one way of writing the same thing.

I certainly have learnt something of this, and despite knowing both are valid, I can't bring myself to say bicycling