Children's dictionary scraps nature words for tech ones

'Acorn' entry in 1958 dictionary

Flickr, Simon Robertson (modified with permission by Lydia Hooper)

Oxford University Press (OUP) has recently come under fire for omissions from their Junior Dictionary aimed at seven-year-olds. About 50 words related to nature have been removed and replaced by others related to technology, according to The Oxford Times

The recent edition doesn't include words like 'acorn', 'cauliflower', 'chestnut', and 'clover', but some have been added such as ‘cut and paste’, ‘broadband’, 'blog' and 'chatroom'. Words like 'almond', 'blackberry' and 'crocus' were replaced by 'analogue' and 'block graph' back in 2007, according to The Guardian.

Others words recently removed:

  • heron
  • herring
  • kingfisher
  • lark
  • leopard
  • lobster
  • magpie
  • minnow
  • mussel
  • newt
  • otter
  • ox
  • oyster
  • panther

A group of 28 authors, including Margaret Atwood, Andrew Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Robert Macfarlane, complained to OUP via letter, stating that these changes might influence children to spend less time outdoors.

"It is worrying that in contrast to those words taken out, many [of the words added] are associated with the solitary childhoods of today," they wrote. "In light of what is known about the benefits of natural play and connection to nature; and the dangers of their lack, we think the choice of words to be omitted shocking and poorly considered.”

This connection has been demonstrated more thoroughly since 2007, the authors claimed. They pointed to research showing that 40% of children regularly played outdoors a generation ago, while 40% today never play outdoors today. “Obesity, anti-social behaviour, friendlessness and fear are the known consequences,” they wrote.

“As a symptom of a widely acknowledged problem that is ruining lives, this omission becomes a major issue," they continued. "A deliberate and publicised decision to restore some of the most important nature words would be a tremendous cultural signal and message of support for natural childhood.”

“The Oxford Junior Dictionary includes around 400 words related to nature,” OUP spokeswoman Harriet Bayly replied. The publisher also stated that all of the words removed from the 2007 version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary are included in the Primary Dictionary that is intended for those older than seven, according to the Huffington Post.

“We do not care for what we do not know, and on the whole we do not know what we cannot name," Macfarlane said.

We know youth need to know more than what can be found in books and via technology. Time outdoors improves their learning, social skills and much more

Research has also proven what so many of us know to be true: spending time in nature makes us more likely to care for it.

The future of America's youth depends on wildlands - and the future of our wildlands depends on them.


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