Fwd: "derailleur, n." - Word of the Day from the OED

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 29 01:37:01 UTC 2013

Today's OED WOTD is derailleur, n. I don't have an issue with the
definition as such, but it's a few decades out of date. Even in the
1980s we regularly referred to the front switching gear as
"derailleur"--I've replaced and adjusted quite a few of them in college.
Bicycle maintenance books take this reference at least into the 1970s.
Basically, a derailleur is /any/ switching gear, front or rear, that
makes the chain jump from one sprocket to another. Most are attached by
cable to shifting levers or rings. Chances are the earlier definition
only mentioned the rear because there was only one front sprocket.
Modern bikes have as many as 4 in front and as many as 9 in the back
(not both at the same time though--normal gear is 3x6 or 2x8 with 2x9 on
some pro models, with other options available; the 80s bikes had 2x5 or
2x6 on 120 and 126 mm rear axles, respectively).

Here's an obvious example from today: http://goo.gl/YRDTr

Here's a blog post from a bike tool company from 2006: http://goo.gl/MA9NL

It should not be too difficult to find examples from bike magazines
manuals going back into the 1970s. I'd offer some, but mine are all in


-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        "derailleur, n." - Word of the Day from the OED
Date:   Sat, 29 Jun 2013 01:30:00 +0100
From:   oedwotd at oup.com
Reply-To:       oedwotd at OUP.COM

Etymology: <  French dérailleur (Trésor, 1927), <  dérailler derail v.
   A bicycle gear in which the ratio is changed by switching the line of
the chain (while pedalling) so that it jumps to a different sprocket on
the rear wheel. Also derailleur gear.

1930 Cycling 11 Apr. 337/1 The Derailleur system of multi-speed gearing
is..well-tested..on the Continent, but comparatively new to this
country.. The gear works by ‘de-railing’ the chain from one back
sprocket to another of different size, thus giving a different gear.
1950 Chambers's Encycl. II. 307/2 The most popular variable gear in
Great Britain is the 3- and 4-speed hub gear... On the Continent and in
America the dérailleur-type gear is more favoured.
1959 Elizabethan Apr. 35/1 My lightweight bike with 4-speed hub gear,
which is not so vulnerable as the derailleur.
1975 Which? May 140/3 All our drop handlebar bikes..had derailleur gears.
1984 N.Y. Times 23 Sept. v. 2/1 The whir of well-oiled machinery is
interrupted only by decisive clinks as derailleurs move chains to a
lower gear for the long, steady climb over the terminal moraine.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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