Motorcycle Windshields, Er, Windscreens

Here at Rider magazine, we get mail. Boy, do we get mail–email, snail mail, even hand-delivered letters and notes on occasion (though no one ever brings us a cookie. Sniff.). We love it all, good, bad, critical and even incoherent, except maybe the ones pieced together from letters cut out of a magazine. Your correspondence helps us maintain a good handle on who you, our readers, are and your likes and dislikes. And by the way, we’re glad to have you as one!

Slipstreamer's S-08 Sports Shield
Slipstreamer's S-08 Sports Shield, er, screen

One mail topic making the rounds lately is our use of the word “windscreen” instead of “windshield” (unless we neglect to change it in a contributor’s copy who hasn’t gotten the memo).

A few readers have taken umbrage at our invoking what they perceive to be solely a British term for that thing sometimes mounted to the fork or fairing on our bikes that shields or screens us from the wind. Perhaps they had a British nanny who slapped them on the wrist a few too many times. They will usually quote some dictionary or another in an attempt to prove our usage of windscreen incorrect. Can’t fault anyone for turning to the dictionary…except when they’re coming after you with 22 pounds of Webster’s Unabridged raised over their heads.

In any event, they’re not wrong, but neither are we. Here at Rider we use the American Heritage Dictionary as our official guide, and I quote:Windscreen n. 1) A screen for protection against the wind. 2) Chiefly British. The windshield of a motor vehicle.

Nothing in No. 1 that doesn’t describe a motorcycle’s screen or shield, right?

On the other hand, for windshield, American Heritage says 1) A framed pane of usually curved glass or other transparent shielding located in front of the occupants of a vehicle to protect them from the wind. 2) A shield placed to protect an object from the wind.

Not having the same intolerance of British or European terminology (e.g. petcock)–the earliest bikes had European origins after all–we find windscreen a better fit than something “framed” to protect “occupants of a vehicle.” And any time we can use a word that is a more unique fit to motorcycling than an automotive one, as long as it doesn’t create confusion or sound bad, that’s what we do.

We did give up on using “footboards” instead of “floorboards,” though–it just doesn’t sound right. Never mind that if your footboards are actually on the floor you and your bike have a serious problem….

Tuttle out.


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