What's In a Name

By Morna Scott-Dunne | morna@canadiangothic.com | @dunnemor

Pistons may give your bike power but what you name it really brings it to life. I personally think bikes need a name, otherwise, how are you ever going to give them encouragement on tight turns as I’ve caught myself doing on more than one occasion. Plus, I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t ventured to give their two wheels a name.

I bought my first bike via an online ad, from a teacher who I met in a primary school parking lot.        

I was still at the point where I stalled my bike almost every time I stopped then tried to proceed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered to the bike as I stalled her in the empty parking lot in front of the skinny teacher in glasses. I was a bit of an all round Canadian apology testing her out. I wanted a bike I could drop and not feel too badly about it during my figurative and literal learning curve. That day, I bought a 2001 black Suzuki SV650S. Step one on my new adventure. Buy motorcycle. Check. There was a light drizzle. I bought my first motorcycle on the 5th day of May. 

For those of you who are not fans of folk rock, those are lyrics from a Bob Dylan song called Isis. The song played in my head as I left Georgetown. 

"I married Isis on the 5th day of May, but I could not hold onto her very long, so I cut off my hair and I rode straight away to the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong."

Hence I named my bike Isis; a good old goddess name wrapped up in rock and roll for the road. All was fine and good for a while until the terrorist group ISIS (standing for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) showed up on the international scene. Suddenly, my bike became the bad side of an off colour punchline. This was compounded by the fact I work for a news organization.  For example, when the American journalist Joel Stotloff was beheaded, the joke around the newsroom was: “Did you hear Morna’s bike has been killing journalists, better watch yourself out there.” Secretly infuriated I tried to laugh it off. As a female rider I think you’re always going to get teased a bit when people find out you’re not actually riding a scooter, but this joke was taking the whole bad-woman-driver stereotype to the next level.

Now reading this outside of a news organization, there may be a tendency to think, “Wow, too soon.” Something I do agree with is the only way to deal with scrolling through hours of war/disaster/disease footage in the news is to joke about it. As a bonus in the whole matter I discovered my scheduler kept 18 motorcycles in his garage and I really hope to get a chance to look at them one day.

For a time, I wondered if I should change the name of my bike. If I couldn’t figure out this quandary, politically correct BBC should certainly have the answer. They were dealing with an Isis problem of their own in the drama department with Season 4 of Downton Abbey and the beloved Labrador retriever who also happened to be called Isis.  

Downton Abbey is based on the real life story of the Carnarvon family. The fifth Earl of Carnarvon financed and accompanied the expedition that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.” Hence, the dog’s name is Isis. Unlike me, he did not pick the puppy on the fifth day of May in the rain.

The Guardian reported a source that sited: “…growing discomfort about the dog’s name being similar to that of the terrorist group Isis.” Not surprisingly, Isis was in the doghouse. This was insanity. In a way I can see how someone may mistake me for a douche who took being bad ass too far, but the fact that somehow a dog in a period drama maybe inciting terrorism is ridiculous. Isis was finally “killed off” in the season finale. The show still claims that there is no association between the two facts.

I will give Downton Abbey credit with the appearance of a 1920’s Harley Davidson ridden by the postman. Harley’s probably hadn’t made it to that side of the pond yet, but they were commonly used for deliveries. There’s proof of this in the largest estate in America, Biltmore. In a letter to an employee in 1914, Biltmore Estate superintendent Chauncey D. Beadle encouraged all riders to follow the rules, which included: “Low speed, especially on curves where the speed-limit should not be in excess of 12 miles per hour.” That’s 19.3 km for our Canadian riders. Nothing would feel worse than being passed by a cantering horse at your maximum speed. Well, maybe you’d feel worse if you’d gone and done something like accidentally naming your bike Isis. 

I finally decided just to own it. I think in a way changing my bikes name is just letting the terrorists win. So to this day it’s still Isis, me and the road. Peace and safe riding ladies…Would love to hear your reasons for naming your bike. Send them my way!

I’ll give the last words to Bob Dylan 

“As we rode through the canyons through the devilish cold, I was thinking about Isis how she thought I was so reckless.”

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