I recently attended a talk by eco warrior and nature words writer Terry Tempest Williams. Although she is a great speaker I can only remember one thing from the two-hour event.

 

About half way through her talk Terry told the audience that the following words have been removed from the new version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary:

 

Acorn, almond, apricot, ash

Beech, blackberry, bloom, bramble, buttercup

Carnation, cauliflower, cheetah, clover, colt, crocus

Dandelion

Fern, ferret, fungus

Gooseberry, goldfish

Herring

Ivy

Mint, monarch, minnow

Nectar

Otter, oyster

Panther, pelican, porcupine, porpoise, pasture, primrose

Raven

Thrush, tulip

Violet

Willow, weasel, wren

 

Removed. All these rich, alive, nature words…now gone.

 

Terry then told us that when the editor of the Dictionary was asked why these words were pulled out, the editor replied, “Because these words no longer have a role in our children’s childhood.”

 

I was stunned. And sad.

 

When we don’t have a word to describe something (or some being), doesn’t it make it easier to detach ourselves from it? Or not even have an awareness of that un-named ‘thing’ in the first place?

 

Without words for buttercup, panther and otter, won’t it be easier for our children, who are already struggling from nature deficit disorder, to never know a buttercup, panther or otter?

 

Nature words like otter going extinct

Mother and baby otter.

 

In what realm does a buttercup, panther or otter exist if there is no word to describe it?

 

Does the editor believe these words are no longer relevant for our children because she thinks these species are on the verge of extinction? Does she think  by the time the children reading the Junior Dictionary reach adulthood that blackberries, porpoises and monarchs will no longer exist? Is her rationale: why bother learning the words of something that won’t be around much longer?

 

Does the dictionary editor think she is doing our children a favor? Does she believe that not having names for cheetah, pelican and wren will make our children less likely to notice when the last cheetah, pelican and wren leave this earth forever? Or when the last acorn, crocus and pasture get covered over? Will it make them less sad?

 

Nature Words Replaced

 

These are some of the words that have been newly added to the Oxford Junior Dictionary:

 

Allergic, analog

Boisterous, block

Conflict, chatroom, classified, compulsory, creep, cut & paste

Database, donate, dyslexic

MP3 player

Vandalism, voicemail

 

 

How long before the editors remove elephant, whale, bluebird and nature from our children’s “relevant” word list?

And what new words will replace those nature words?