Flatlander wrote to ask:
I was watching “Supernanny” the other day (it’s voyeurism, I know) and she made reference to removing the “stabilizers” from a child’s bicycle, meaning the “training wheels”. Is this a common BrE term or just a one-off?It's not a one-off--one often hears stabilizers (and often reads stabilisers) for these things in BrE. Looking it up on the web, I've also found it on American sites, but particularly where training wheels would not be an appropriate term--for example wheels for balance-impaired adult cyclists for whom training wheels would be a misnomer.
Training wheels doesn't seem to be in the OED, so I'm having a hard time finding out if it was originally AmE. It is used currently in BrE (14,100 hits on UK Google), but I get the feeling that (a) stabilizers is the more usual way to refer to the things on children's bicycles, and (b) training wheels is more likely to be used metaphorically. Training wheels is a more transparent metaphor than stabilizers is, since the word stabilizer is pretty ambiguous--can refer to a food additive, something to keep dye from running, parts of various types of vehicle/craft, etc. For example, a headline from the Times Higher Education Supplement (14 Feb 2003) reads:
For more on z versus s in BrE spelling, see back here.
Diversity bike wobbles as the training wheels come off
For more on bicycles, see this one.