Posted in An Authors Thoughts

EEK! Disappearing Words? Who Was the Cretin Who Decided That?

oxfor jr dictionaryI read a post by Robert McFarlane on his word-hoard column that concerned me. Now, I love words, and I love fellow word lovers. Mr. McFarlane is certainly no exception. Who is he? He is active in the preservation of the many words from the various languages once spoken within the United Kingdom. What’s this about? His latest article concerned the words excised from the New Oxford Junior Dictionary. He lamented the loss of words about the earth, and the introduction of words that only concerned technology. I didn’t just feel sad over the loss. I was thoroughly vexed, and so should he have been. Think about this. Someone summarily dismissed words, not antiquated words, but words that connect us to something other than technology, to something that is real and is uplifting and beautiful, to a world that feeds our soul rather than suck our time and the life out of us so we don’t connect personally. These were words that represented the miraculous beauty of our world. Here’s what he wrote:

A new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. Aoriginal sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. As I had been entranced by the language preserved in the prose‑poem of the “Peat Glossary”, so I was dismayed by the language that had fallen (been pushed) from the dictionary. For blackberry, read Blackberry. ~ Friday, February 27, 2015 The Guardian

bluebellNow, I don’t know about you, but I’m upset. I don’t just lament their loss, I want to do something about it. What do we do? Contact the companies printing these dictionaries, write your local newspaper, bring it to the attention of everyone you can. We should be more interested in teaching our children lots of words to describe the world around them, rather than words only concerning the electronic devices their noses are glued to most of the day. What do they think education is for? What dictionaries are for?

I always believed that education and books were about opening their horizons, teaching them about the world and their history. Are we to believe that the only words worth knowing are those that have to do with the Internet and political and corporate speak? Or do they go to school to learn about otterour language, our history, civic responsibility, mathematics, philosophy, science, and literature? I pray it is the latter, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

Since when does the word chatroom take precedence over an otter, or broadband have more beauty than a bluebell? Look at that face. Do you want your child to look at that cute aquatic thing and say, “What is that?” and we’ve lost the name of that adorable creature to the word blog? What is wrong with us?

The next time you see an incredible heron fly by, don’t say, “What kind of bird is that?” You should know, because I told you that it is a heron, a magnificent bird frequenting wetlands. Here’s a picture so you won’t forget…heron Ladies and Gentlemen, a Heron! Blogging is stupid, and what cretin decided to take buttercup out of the kid’s dictionary? Fire them!

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Author:

NOIRE MYSTERIES of Chéri Vausé - Chéri Vausé is not your usual mystery or thriller writer. She writes Noir. After teaching theology for more than 25 years, she retired to write full-time. Her genre? Everything from crime fiction to horror. She's even working on several SF stories. Cheri lives in Central Texas on a small ranch with her husband, two dogs, and four ducks.

28 thoughts on “EEK! Disappearing Words? Who Was the Cretin Who Decided That?

  1. That is the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time. How in the heck can you take out a word like cygnet, or fern. This is just crazy. Dictionaries should be getting longer as we evolve as a society.

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  2. To be fair, this is a really small dictionary; the cover says it has about 10,000 words.

    (Actually, including every specific plant and animal name that’s reasonably well known would take up multiple volumes this size by itself.)

    Leaving out “ash” and “otter” is baffling, but I also have to ask: what were “catkin” and “conker” doing in such a small dictionary in the first place?

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    1. Conker was used extensively before the last fifty years or so. We still use catkin when describing the long circular flowers on the stalk of the reeds found along water ways. Conker is spelled many different ways, even with a K, and describes a kind of limestone. These were not unusual words to those connected to the earth, but since people are connected to their cell phones more than the earth these days, that explains it. However, that harms our children by making the electronic world their focus. Whether or not they wanted to limit the dictionary to just 10,000 words or not is irrelevant. These are words that should be a part of our daily lives, rather than the computer-speak world of tweets and blogs. By excising the beauty of our world and replacing it with stupid words like Blog, which in a sense is a meaningless word, we isolate our children to that artificial realm. Blog could have been blot, or blurb, or bucca (which is a Gaelic word for ghost). It would make more sense if they used the word article, and that would connect it to the craft of journalism. And that word is in that dictionary.

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  3. This is the same violence that’s being done to parts of speech. I expect that someday adverb will be defined, “One of a group of old-time words, which writers used to describe action words. Modern people forgot them after the death of the last writer who was born in the 20th Century.” (This definition has a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level of 5.0, a readability level that I recall having seen an “authority” urge writers to adopt.)

    Thank goodness for used-book shops and friends-of-the-library book sales. I bought a 1941 Webster’s Collegiate, which I use when I’m writing in American, and I have a recent Concise OED for when I’m writing in Commonwealth English. Now and then, I can’t find something in the OED. When I go online, it’s usually to The Free Dictionary by Farlex, and sometimes to others, for specialty terms.

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    1. As an author, I still use adverbs, adjectives, etc. In spite of all the recommendations to not use them. I love words too much. I can’t help it. They’re beautiful, and they help me explain the world around me. To excise any is to limit our speech, our freedom to express myself. Sigh… it’s lovely to see so many feel the same way I do. Thank you! You’re wonderful!

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      1. The film Idiocracy seems more like prophecy every day!
        I’m a bit stunned that the use of adverbs and adjectives are actively discouraged. Really? How can that possibly be justified, especially in terms of writing books?

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  4. I am all for the evolution of language. I mean, if language didn’t evolve we’d all be speaking Chaucer’s English. But to remove words that are so…..basic – the names of basic items in our world – is just breathtakingly outrageous!!
    I would suggest spreading the word so no-one buys these new dictionaries. Boycott them!
    Bring it to the attention of the BBC, major newspapers, and damn well shame them into rethinking this stupid decision.

    For the gentleman concerned about scrabble, you can get scrabble dictionaries 🙂

    The issue of the spelling of potato……I am from the UK, and am in my late 40’s. I was taught potato was singular, and the E was used when turning it plural – potatoes. Not that it has any relevence, just thought I’d add my twopenneth 🙂

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    1. You are correct about the potato plural, I was showing my age… Ahem… It’s the way it used to be spelled. We also spelled neighborhood – neighbourhood, etc. The dropping of letters started about fifty or so years ago. See… You made me show my age again. At least, I haven’t gone the way of the Dodo… Oops, now it’s otter and heron.

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  5. This is going to cause havoc at Scrabble with adults using words they know and children challenging buttercup or otter then finding they’re not in the dictionary. What argument has an adult then except to hunt for an adult dictionary and hope the morons haven’t followed suit there. For heavens sake, just make the dictionary a few pages bigger but don’t take away what still exists to be seen.

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  6. What? This is preposterous! How can they take out these common words as if they don’t exist. Poor Mr. Otter. Mr. Heron is alive and well and lives in my backyard. And sweet Miss Buttercup and Miss Bluebell? Why I saw them just the other day.

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      1. I don’t get it at all. I use online dictionaries. Hopefully, without a need to keep the tome to a certain physical size, on-line dictionaries will continue to grow our vocabulary and understanding of the word.

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      2. On-line dictionaries are great, but they usually don’t include the uses like a traditional hardbound OED does. As a writer I use both. I don’t like relying strictly on one or the other. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. But I have to say, I love my OED hardbound. Where else would I find verses or sentences from letters, memoirs, novels, or speeches dated back to the middle ages or earlier. On-line dictionaries don’t include those, just the definition. Perhaps I’m a old curmudgeon, but I do so love reading those sentences using the word I’m looking up. I learn a great deal from those simple sentences.

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  7. You know what? We have a couple of junior dictionaries at home missing tons of words. It’s sad that we cannot rely on print books. We end up going on dictionary.com instead for all her vocabulary words. Her teachers recommend it, too!

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    1. I own several dictionaries (even an archaic word dictionary), and I’m constantly upset that words are missing, even from my OED. I was dismayed when ain’t became an acceptable word. I’m so old I remember when that word wasn’t considered a real word by any of my English teachers at school. And Dan Quayle was right. There used to be am E at the end of potato. They dropped it shortly before he was accused of being stupid by the media. He was taught how to spell that word the same as I was. I found out the same time he did that the E was dropped. I’m not sure who decides these things, but maybe we should all take our language back from them.

      I’m not saying new words can’t be made, but I am saying that buttercup is a more important word than blog. In today’s electronic world, Blog may fall from favour rapidly, and another take its place, then it might be assigned to obscurity. But not Otter, they’re so cute.

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    2. This is also where the belief comes from that people no longer have attention spans adequate enough to devote to complex sentences and long books. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when dictionaries stop helping children acquire large vocabularies as fast as they can. Such dictionaries aid and abet functional illiteracy.

      My mother encouraged us to read aloud, and we always had the run of her very large and eclectic personal library, which included encyclopedias and one of those huge old dictionaries. We also got public library cards as soon as we were old enough, and we were frequent library patrons. If libraries and dictionaries downsize, it’s going to get more difficult to provide children with enriched reading environments. Electronic access to books is unreliable in this respect: it’s too easy for children to be tempted away from the quiet study of text on a screen, to the bright lights and loud noises of games available on the same electronic device.

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      1. Excellent comment. Brain science studies have shown that children and adults do not retain knowledge gleaned from E-Readers and computers as well as they do from the printed page. All the more reason for a dictionary to represent words for those things around us like catkins and otters. Makes me feel like taking a walk in nature and smelling the flowers. Meet Y’all out there!

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    1. I realize that many dictionaries would look like the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) and be several volumes if they included all words, but… Sigh… I mean Buttercup, Otter… Really?! This is outrageous. I can’t even imagine why anyone would think that’s acceptable. Sigh (again). What is the world coming to?

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