A unicycle by any other name -- getting serious

Thanks all for the various definitions, but I still have some quibbles and

Jack Halpern wrote :
>MONOCYCLE 1. [American English usage] A one-wheeled vehicle with the rider
>mounted inside the wheel.
> 2. [Traditional British English usage] Any one-wheeled vehicle
> (American unicycle and monocycle).

You can probably safely change British to Commonwealth. The general public
here in Australia seem to make no distinction between unicycle and monocycle.
(The reason I brought the topic up was that I felt silly correcting them, when I
wasn’t sure of the difference anyway.)

FWIW, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary does not contain “unicycle”. It
defines “monocycle” (this is from memory) as a “one-wheeled velocipede”.

I tried to work out which was more appropriate by working out the etymology, but
it seems that while “uni” and “mono” come from the Latin and Greek respectively
(or was it the other way around? - I should have written it down, or brought my
Shorter Oxford to work!), the word “cycle” is derived from both Greek AND Latin.

Craig Milo Rogers wrote :
> I think the definition Jack that gave for ONE-WHEELED VEHICLE would be
> closer to my preference for UNICYCLE. I dislike the notion of calling
> obviously multi-wheeled vehicles “one-wheeled” merely because only one
> wheel is in contact with the ground.
> What about bicycles when they are ridden in a “wheelie”, ie, with only
> one wheel touhing the ground? Are they one-wheeled vehicles, or
> unicycles, for the duration of the wheelie?

After some thought, I decided that my answer to that is “yes.” If someone can
pass some of the Unicycling Skill Levels while only using one wheel on their
bike, why not declare it an honorary unicycle? If I ride a standard unicycle
while holding an unattached wheel in my hand, it is still unicycling, so what’s
the difference. This way, “multi-wheeled velocipedes” where the wheels are
stacked on top of each other (only one touching the ground) can be
“multi-wheeled unicycles” despite the oxymoron.

> UNICYCLE Any kind of vehicle which, when in use, uses a single wheel as its
> sole supporting contact with the ground.

Sounds good to me. As long as it is clear that this definition excludes
wheelbarrows… and Ansett air-craft when some of the landing gear fails.


Hello All,

I appreciate everyone’s cooparation in building our list of synonyms for
unicycle. The time has come to organize the list, and eventually I’ll try to
make it real “scientific” based on lexicographic principles. Here is a
preliminary version.

I would be nice if can make a more precise classification, with perhaps info on
frequency of use. Anyone want to try?

      ---------- Lexical Items ("real words") --------------

These are more or less established words, albeit some are very limited while
others are colloquial. What they have in common is that the are used by

  1. UNICYCLE Standard American

  2. MONOCYCLE Traditional (obsolescent?) British

  3. ONE-WHEELED VEHICLE “Scientific”

  4. ICICLE Colloquial (I know one family who use it)

  5. IKE Colloquial (not sure where from – attested)

  6. YIKE Colloquial (according to Adam Stork)

  7. UNI Colloquial, very common

  8. WHEEL Colloquial

          ------------Nonce (uneducated) Words -----------

The nonce words below are often used by the nonunicycling public, though I’ve
heard unicyclists using numbers 11 and 17 on occasion. (may they dangle from the
Tokyo Tower on a 50-foot giraffe!). It is rather difficult to draw the
distinction between this classfication, and the one below, but the nonce words
here do seem to have a more or less “semilexicalized” existence.

  1. ONE-WHEELER Unattested, but I think I’ve heard it

  2. ONE-WHEEL BICYCLE Unattested, uneducated

  3. BIKE Substandard, uneducated, illiterate, stupid!

  4. ONE-WHEELED BICYCLE Colloquial, uneducated

  5. ONE-WHEELED BIKE Colloquial, uneducated

  6. TRICYCLE Colloquial, uneducated, childish

  7. UNI-BIKE Colloquial, uneducated

  8. ONE TRICYCLE Colloquial, uneducated, childish

  9. BICYCLE Substandard, uneducated, illiterate, stupid!

    ------------ Informal Decsriptions ----------------

The items below are not word or phrases, they are just descriptions by someone
who doesn’t know the proper word. I suppose they are never used by unicyclists,
except in jest.

  1. FUNNY LOOKING BIKE Uneducated nonce word?
  2. FUNNY THING Uneducated, childish nonce word?
  3. FUNNY LOOKING THING Uneducated nonce word?
  7. THAT

Tim Sheppard, are the last six items are attested for, or did you sort of make
them up based on vague memory?

At 26 and still counting!! Any more?

Regards, Jack Halpern

Kanji Dictionary Publishing Society 1-3-502 3-Chome Niiza, Niiza-shi, Saitama
352 JAPAN Voice: +81-048-481-3103 Fax: +81-048-479-1323

Re: A unicycle by any other n…

Jack Halpern wrote:

>Tim Sheppard, are the last six items are attested for, or did you sort of make
>them up based on vague memory?

You must be kidding. No, actually, you must be living in Japan. I think I’ve
heard every single one of the 26 descriptions on your most recent list. You have
to get out in public and ride more!

One of the funniest comments I ever got while unicycling was in 1986. We weren’t
even riding. I was walking down 42nd street in Manhattan with Tom Miller and an
old girlfriend of his. We were pushing our unicycles in front of us. A grungy
looking black man came walking up out of the subway stairs as we walked past and
said, “F___ THAT!”

You had to be there, and hear the way he said it. He spoke a whole paragraph
with two words.

On that day we were pushing four unicycles because we were supposed to have met
with Joakim Malm (Swedish inventer of coasting, pictured in the Miyata book). He
did not show up, so we were stuck with an extra. We ran into actor Richard
Thomas in Central Park, and had our pictures taken with him. Later, we rode our
unicycles on the 110th floor observation level of the World Trade Center.

Stay on Top! John Foss, president International Unicycling Federation