…. or alternatively, A is for ‘attachment’, B is for ‘blog’ and C is for ‘chatroom’.
Somehow, back in January, I missed the fuss that surrounded the publication of the updated edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I caught up with it today, when reading an absorbing article in today’s Guardian by landscape and natural world enthusiast Robert Macfarlane. This is what he said.
‘The same summer I was on Lewis, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark,mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. ………I was dismayed by the language that had fallen (been pushed) from the dictionary. For blackberry, read Blackberry.’
I too was dismayed. Everywhere there is evidence that children are playing out far less than they used to, seeing green space less often than their parents did. Perhaps more than ever they need a dictionary to help them know about chestnuts and clover. Since the Second World War, there have been regular complaints from teachers and others, that there are city children who don’t know that milk comes from cows, or potatoes from the earth, or that blackberries are for gathering and devouring. Best not cut them out of works of reference too.
But then, I’m not sure how many children use dictionaries either. I’ve seen lots of young people, including our own daughter, who will turn to an online source rather than the dictionary when needing to check a spelling or a meaning. But really, what can be more fun than turning to a dictionary to look something up, and then becoming distracted, for more than 20 minutes at a time, by reading about words you never knew, or knew you needed to know, like ‘pursier’, or ‘grager’, or ‘chip breaker’ or ‘squaloid’?
All the same, I’m glad and relieved that my grandchildren know the meanings of all the words Macfarlane singles out, both the new edition inclusions, and the ousted ones from, apparently, a bygone age.