50+ Nature Words Taken Out Of Dictionary

Boy_puffs_dandelionPicture this: A father and son are walking home from school. The boy bends down to blow on a dandelion. A classic image of childhood, wouldn’t you say?

Once home, the father reaches for a children’s dictionary — the one with the big colorful pictures and 18-point font. The father says, “Let’s look up dandelion, son!”

If you are rolling your eyes from the sickly-sweet unreality of this scenario, stay with me for a moment. It all goes horribly wrong.

They flip to the D section and … dandelion isn’t there. And near to where the word should be? Database.

That’s right — the Oxford Junior Dictionary has been slowly removing many nature words, and adding more technological ones.

For the record:

In: Blog, MP3 player, broadband, Blackberry (the electronic kind)

Out: Acorn, beaver, otter, blackberry (the purple berry you can eat)

Sure, there are plenty of other things beside lexicography for parents to worry about. But I ask you – is it absolutely necessary that kids understand broadband technology at age 7? What about stone-skipping or grass-whistling?

It’s not fair to pile on the dictionary’s editors. Junior dictionaries are not meant to hold every word — just the ones commonly used by children. And next to MP3 players, I guess dandelions and acorns don’t stand a chance of making the cut.

The dictionary is simply reflecting the world our children live in, where the virtual world increasingly crowds out the natural one.

But there’s hope: You might assume it was an environmentalist group that raised a fuss about the missing words.

Nope. It was an even more powerful force: a mother.

According to the original story — Lisa Saunders, a mother of four in Northern Ireland, was helping her son with his homework when she realized words like moss and fern weren’t in the dictionary. Missing too were certain Christian terms, like bishop, chapel and saint.

Incensed, she spoke to a reporter late last year, who wrote an article. At the bottom of the online version of the article are 351 comments from readers. The world’s bloggers took it from there.

So. There’s a button at the top of this post. It says “Share.” You know what to do.

And check out NWF’s Green Hour program for great ideas for getting your own kids outside again.