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  1. #1
    Senior Member nelsonmilum's Avatar
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    The Power of Language

    Don't Say 'Cyclists,' Say 'People on Bikes' - Sarah Goodyear

    This is an article about how a change in word choice impacted the tone of discussion. By having discussions focused on people rather than activities there seems to have been positive movement in making the roads safer for people travelling by any means.

    What do you all think? Can language and they way we frame things have that big of an impact, or is it just a coincidence, or is it more complicated than all of that?
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  2. #2
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    My reflex in cases like this is to resist, but actually, I think it's a well considered suggestion. I'll try it. It won't be easy.

    My 23-year-old daughter identifies as queer, and she raises the issue of gender-neutral pronouns. Out of respect for her, I plan to try. Depending on context, I will ask people what pronouns they prefer. Life is full of changes, and we shouldn't resist them categorically.
    I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter. --Blaise Pascal

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
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  3. #3
    Senior Member nelsonmilum's Avatar
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    Changing ingrained language habits can be super difficult, I'm pretty new to cycling, so if I choose to take on this type of language it may not be as difficult for me as is could be for others. The gender language is a tough nut to crack considering our culture, the best advice I've read for when you mess up is along the lines of 'apologize, but don't agonize' or 'acknowledge the mistake, correct it, and move on.' The more you pay attention to that kind of language, the quicker a person can adjust.
    ~ Nelson M.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member BobbyG's Avatar
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    As with much pc-speak I was going to dismiss this out of hand as feel-good tripe. But I read the article and thought, "yes!" Using the article's own example what if instead of a headline reading "SUV Kills Pedestrian" it read, "Person with SUV Kills Person on Foot". Or "Person with *** Kills Person at ATM". This grammatical strategy would show that it's people who cause crimes, not SUV's, nor guns, nor other objects. But seriously...This would never work for headlines where terse wording rules. On the other hand, it would be a nicer world if everybody thought about how their actions affected others both negatively and positively.
    "When life hands you lumens, make lumen-aide!"

  5. #5
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    Read the response by 'Mairead'. They made some good observations about the language change.

  6. #6
    Senior Member nelsonmilum's Avatar
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    @Chris516 The only comment on that link by "Mairead" that I saw was about people conflating people on bikes with people on motorbikes. It may be a fair criticism of the specific phrasing, but I think it's pretty a pretty small barrier in the larger conversation about language. It's also a pretty weak excuse to ignore results and carry on without changing. If "People on bikes" doesn't work, and we have good reasons not to use it, then we can find a different way to make our language person-centred.
    @BobbyG You're absolutely right, short and snappy headlines are the bread an butter of the news reporting industry. I would argue though that their usage is a reflection of our own. If there was a shift in language by the people within the community, that shift could naturally move to other people... not an overnight change to be sure, but I wouldn't expect something like this to be quick and easy.
    ~ Nelson M.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    As someone who eschews PC-speak, gender neutrality or other orwellianisms as being either pandering to the thin skinned or just plain unnecessary, I don't think this will have any positive impact on the issue of treatment of cyclists by motorists or the public at large..

    Although it sure sounds​ nice.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    As someone who eschews PC-speak, gender neutrality or other orwellianisms as being either pandering to the thin skinned or just plain unnecessary, I don't think this will have any positive impact on the issue of treatment of cyclists by motorists or the public at large..

    Although it sure sounds​ nice.
    +1, although I'm not sure it even sounds nice.
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    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  9. #9
    Randomhead
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    not sure how to put this, but reminding people that it's a person on a bike is not a horrible idea. It has been noted that we are isolated in our cars, and breaking through that isolation is always a good thing

  10. #10
    Senior Member kickstart's Avatar
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    I find it discouraging how much emphases is given to the facade of being PC without any real concern for the content of the character behind the words. I have noticed the louder and more often one demands "respect", the less worthy of it they are.

    Respect is earned by showing it, not demanding it.

  11. #11
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    I agree and regularly attempt to use the proper terminology. Not because it's PC or because I expect any great change in attitude, but because it just makes more sense.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  12. #12
    Senior Member Essex's Avatar
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    I think context is important when changing trends in verbal communication. Seattle tends to be a liberal city, and Washington a typically progressive state. While it's a good idea to differentiate terms - where you live, the people you speak to all have to be somewhat on board.

    In Brooklyn NY - I think this effort would be a hard sell. Maybe a little less so in Manhattan.

  13. #13
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    Actually I don't think this falls under political correctness , which I take as 'mandated?' speech designed not to hurt the feelings of certain ethnics/groups . This is just a idea of how we might better speak and get our point across and make the most positive impact. Our language has been changing at least since it was brought to England . (NO I wasn't there). But I guarantee you when I was a kid "gay" meant something different and "Dude" was derogatory. I won't even get into acceptable racial and religious terms of that era.I heard a piece on NPR radio the other day about the study of how language changes ,what was and is no longer acceptable. This seems just a better way to speak in order to accomplish our goals . In this case recognition and fair treatment for all , so people can ride and enjoy their bicycles and drive their cars , together on our roads,safely. (See! you can too teach an old dog new tricks )

  14. #14
    Randomhead
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    I think the best explanation of "PC" is that some people just don't like to be called out when they are impolite in their language choices. Saying "people on bikes" is a technique of manipulation using language. It has the intention of introducing an idea. Saying "cyclists" is ok, we will not be offended

  15. #15
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    Too many words. Besides I'm a bicycle driver.

  16. #16
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    After reading the article, it looks like more PC clap trap. Especially the grid that suggest "proper" phrases.

    IMO we already have a cycling problem. Some of the self proclaimed "elite" wont admit that anyone that rides a bike is a cyclist. If you look up cyclist in a dictionary, it says------a person that travels by bicycle. It does not say a fully kitted roadie on a $7000 bicycle. So----------in fact little Susie on her sidewalk bike with her pink basket is a cyclist.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Essex's Avatar
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    At the end of the day - it's all politics and knowing your audience. What works in one place won't work in others. Personally, I like a direct approach as it avoids circumlocution.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    After reading the article, it looks like more PC clap trap. Especially the grid that suggest "proper" phrases.

    IMO we already have a cycling problem. Some of the self proclaimed "elite" wont admit that anyone that rides a bike is a cyclist. If you look up cyclist in a dictionary, it says------a person that travels by bicycle. It does not say a fully kitted roadie on a $7000 bicycle. So----------in fact little Susie on her sidewalk bike with her pink basket is a cyclist.
    So those elitists are insufficiently PC, in your estimation? Not sure what your "cycling problem" is, otherwise.

  19. #19
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
    If you look up cyclist in a dictionary, it says------a person that travels by bicycle. It does not say a fully kitted roadie on a $7000 bicycle. So----------in fact little Susie on her sidewalk bike with her pink basket is a cyclist.
    No, no, no! Susie would be a kiddie on a bicycle. And the former in your example? Snobs on bikes of course!
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  20. #20
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    [QUOTE=unterhausen;17564494]I think the best explanation of "PC" is that some people just don't like to be called out when they are impolite in their language choices. Saying "people on bikes" is a technique of manipulation using language. It has the intention of introducing an idea. Saying "cyclists" is ok, we will not be offended[/QUOTE

    "some people don't like being called out when they are impolite" I've seen guys "called out" by superiors at work because they ordered Chicken Fried Steak and (milk) Gravy which was "offensive" to certain religious people at the table. PC ?
    Another time while we were doing some onerous task at work we were all complaining I said " Oh Well , I guess it beats picking cotton " (a common saying from rural Texas by men , like me , who had as children actually picked cotton in the hot sun day after day ) This was seen as a racial slur ( by young guys that had never even seen a cotton field) Now I call these PC violations and not "insults".
    I don't think we're talking about insulting or offending "bicyclist" or "people on bicycles" with our speech. I think this is just suggestions for getting our point across and listened to. For instance at a City Council meeting or Letters to the Editor ect.

  21. #21
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    For my first several years as a bicycle commuter, I resisted the label "cyclist." When folks would refer to me as a cyclist, I'd say something along the lines of "I smoke too much to be a cyclist. I'm just a guy who rides a bicycle to work."

    It was a slow change, but eventually, I started shaving my legs, wearing lycra, and quit smoking. It was harder for me to resist the label.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

  22. #22
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMACH 5 View Post
    For my first several years as a bicycle commuter, I resisted the label "cyclist." When folks would refer to me as a cyclist, I'd say something along the lines of "I smoke too much to be a cyclist. I'm just a guy who rides a bicycle to work."

    It was a slow change, but eventually, I started shaving my legs, wearing lycra, and quit smoking. It was harder for me to resist the label.
    +1 I resisted the clothing and label for a long time, I had had a bad experience with a real "cyclist" while jogging in S. Fl. Took a while but heat and chaffing and restriction little by little forced me to go over to the very functional bike clothing and I guess the label.

    I like your Flying Red Horse avatar. Reminds me of when I was a little kid back in the 40s when we rarely drove to Dallas at night . We would keep watch to see who could be first to spot the Flying Red Horse in the distance ,mounted on the tallest building in Big D. (Or at least the most visible at night )

  23. #23
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlowNeasy View Post
    ...
    I like your Flying Red Horse avatar. Reminds me of when I was a little kid back in the 40s when we rarely drove to Dallas at night . We would keep watch to see who could be first to spot the Flying Red Horse in the distance ,mounted on the tallest building in Big D. (Or at least the most visible at night )
    Thanks. My grandfather made neon signs for decades in Wichita Falls, so he churned out countless Mobile horses for gas stations in west Texas.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

  24. #24
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMACH 5 View Post
    Thanks. My grandfather made neon signs for decades in Wichita Falls, so he churned out countless Mobile horses for gas stations in west Texas.
    Did the horses move? or were they the Mobil logo? (sorry, I really need to build up my resistance to this sort of nonsense)
    Last edited by FBinNY; 02-19-15 at 01:13 PM.
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  25. #25
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    Did the horses move? or were they the Mobil logo? (sorry, I really need to build up my resistance to this sort of nonsense)
    Sorry. Typo on my part. They were the logo for Mobil Oil (formerly Magnolia Petroleum - the one in the Dallas skyline is at the top of the Magnolia building).
    That's gonna leave a mark.

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