[Ads-l] "Just like riding a bike" - 1915

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed May 6 19:44:10 UTC 2020

I recently posted a piece about the history of the expression, "just 
like riding a bike."


Before "riding a bike" was the standard reference point, they used to 
say "like swimming" or "like skating."

In 1869, when bicycles were new, the learning curve for riding a bike 
was described as similar for that of learning to skate.

[Excerpt] It is, in fact, just like skating, very difficult to learn at 
first; and easy enough when once the knack is acquired. [End Excerpt]

The Royal Cornwall Gazette (Truro, England), April 1, 1869, page 8.

The earliest examples of "like swimming" to describe the ease of recall 
of some skill appeared in the 1870s, although the notion that they were.

The earliest example I found of "like riding a bike," used to describe 
the ability to recall some skill, is from 1915, although the sentiment 
that riding a bicycle is easy to recall after a long period of disuse 
was older.

[Excerpt] I can skate all right.  There used to be an empty lot next to 
where I lived when I was a kid and ice skating’s one of those things you 
never forget, like swimming and riding a bike.  So, while others were 
tuning up, I gave a little exhibition all my own.  All the women, except 
one, were green with envy.[End excerpt]

“Mollie of the Movies,” Alma Woodward, The Evening World (New York), 
December 17, 1915, page 22.

"Riding a bike" became predominant in the 1940s or 1950s, with "like 
swimming" and "like skating" appearing regularly.

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

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