Lost Words

A is for acorn. B is for buttercup. C is for chestnut.

Or maybe: A is for almond. B is for blackberry. C is for crocus.

You recognize these words, right? They’re familiar, right? You can probably even picture the two-toned brown nut with its textured top hat. Possibly taste the juicy blackberry in your mouth in the form of a pie that your grandmother lovingly made with her own two hands. Imagine the yellow flower reflecting its color under your chin, proving your love of butter.

These words represent tangible things. You can feel them, smell them, taste them. Tell stories about them.

Well, I’ve got bad news: They’ve been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, replaced by words like analogue, blog, and chatroom.

Can you picture analogue in your mind? Taste a blog? Smell a chatroom?

It’s true that dictionaries constantly add and delete words. Some words fall out of favor; others charge into the vernacular like a tsunami.

“We are limited by how big the dictionary can be—little hands must be able to handle it…,” explained a spokesperson for The Oxford University Press, per the online fact-checking site Snopes. “Our dictionaries are developed through a rigorous research programme, analyzing how children are currently using language. They also reflect the language that children are encouraged to use in the classroom, as required by the national curriculum. This ensures they remain relevant and beneficial for children’s education.”

But fern, ferret, hamster, heron, and herring? And ivy, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, and moss? Do children no longer use these words? Do they not crop up in classroom lessons?

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Author Robert Macfarlane has responded to the removal of words like mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, and panther by writing a children’s book celebrating the eliminated words. The book will be released in early October. I want one. I’ll bet it’s beautiful. I’m not a kid, but I want one.

I have another idea.

Let’s get kids outside. Get them in nature. Teach them about our flora and fauna. This week is National Wildlife Refuge Week. I’ll be leading a bird walk on Friday at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. If you—and your kids—would like to join me, call 808-635-0925 to get your name on the list. Reservations are required.

Words: They matter.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Dana says:

    Are you sure the new dictionary words aren’t meant for us older folks?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kim says:

      That does make a little more sense, doesn’t it!


  2. suegranzella says:

    Music to my ears, this post. I believe so strongly in taking my third-graders on outdoor field trips each year. We just went on Friday to a redwood forest in the hills of Oakland. You’d think I’d taken them to Disneyland; they LOVED it. Kids want to fall in love…. it’s us to put them in settings to make it happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dawn says:

    Reblogged this on orendadawn and commented:
    I didn’t know this and it saddens me.
    Thanks for this information, Kim Steutermann Rogers.
    Yes, let’s make sure the generations to come don’t lose these words by keeping them engaged with our natural world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tina Ferrato says:

    Aloha Kim,

    Love the new post and info on that new ‘children’s’ book. I enjoy reading all of your posts. Thank you!

    Also, I wanted to say that I would LOVE to join you on the Birdwalk tour tomorrow in Hanalei–I dream come true, either with you or Hob or both!–but, alas, I must work, as always. This dream is too long deferred. Anyway, please do send out an invite when you next might have the occasion.

    I am curious if you will also be heading to Christ Church in Kilauea for the Mo’olelo talk story tomorrow evening, an Anaina Hou event featuring Kilauea Lighthouse folks!? (5:30-8:00)

    Finally, I wondered if you saw the short piece about a new storybook co-authored with your beloved Mark Twain (yes, posthumously!) in the latest Costco Connection, p. 87? If not, I knew you would be interested.

    Mahalo for all you do,

    A fan,
    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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