Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Loss for Words

from Wikimedia
A beautiful little posting on the blog Tuesdays in the Tallgrass began with this startling statement which should awaken us all to the current state of nature awareness.
"What’s in a name? The Oxford Junior (Illustrated) Dictionary has eliminated some words from its children’s dictionary that name things. Acorn. Willow. Buttercup. Kingfisher–and, other words that are about nature. Adults I encounter no longer seem to have a reference point for common names of plants and other members of the natural world."
Acorn!  Willow!  Say it ain't so!  An article in the New Yorker pointed out their passing to make room for "broadband" and "MP3 player".  Nothing new here,  The 2008 version deleted "moss" and "fern".  The changing of entries to accommodate new words has occurred throughout the history of dictionaries, eliminating archaic words no longer in use, a necessity in all but the most encyclopedic of dictionaries.

BUT, the choice of the words that a child might look up says something to me about our current generation of parents and children.  More important, the target audience for this dictionary are 7 year old kids and presumably the parents who are reading with them.  Are they really going to look up "MP3 player----REALLY?"  And what is more likely to become archaic in the next generation of dictionary, MP3 or acorn?  Can you say "8-track player?"
An acorn, struggling for life - REK
My concern is not with the dictionary itself but in the implications of the changes.  This is a formal recognition by editors that acorns and moss are no longer words a child might encounter!  When our kids lose an awareness of nature, we are all in trouble.  After all,  "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow."

Postscript December 23, 2016
Lisa Berger responded with a followup link which lists more deleted words of nature, but with a charming addition of new (to us) words from the British Isles.   Consider "Crizzle: Northamptonshire dialect verb for the freezing of water that evokes the sound of a natural activity too slow for human hearing to detect."

I think you will find this an uplifting listing during our current trying times.  Check out  24 profoundly beautiful words that describe nature and landscapes,

1 comment:

  1. Sad to hear about this... but great post! Awareness of what is changing around us is important!

    I'll be teaching eight students this next semester on the Flora of MN... helping them to identify any plants in our changing world.

    Matt

    ReplyDelete