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?
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.