Friday, March 6, 2015

Losing the natural world.

Please have a look at this Guardian recent article on losing our capacity to describe the natural world:

The same summer I was on Lewis, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionarywas published. A 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 acornadderashbeechbluebellbuttercupcatkinconkercowslipcygnetdandelionfernhazelheatherheronivykingfisherlarkmistletoenectarnewtotterpasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachmentblock-graphblogbroadbandbullet-pointcelebritychatroomcommitteecut-and-pasteMP3 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.  --- Robert Macfarlane


  1. To think that so many words about the natural world are being removed from the relevancy of modern-day childhood, is rather shocking. It makes me think about how the generations growing up after mine are finding themselves pulled into the anti-social world of technology. I'm sad that many children would rather be glued to their computers and their smartphones than go outside and play in the mud or the woods. It's rather sad that this is happening. The next generation will be absolutely lost if the technology that they have now would simply stop working forever...

  2. I believe the common spoken language and vocabulary of a society is a real testament to what that society holds important. African tribal languages have hundreds of words for antler in which they hunt for survival. The Inuit people of the Arctic have dozens of words for snow. Even if its not the official proper form of the language, the general slang and vocabulary used by a community really gives insight into what each community values. Words that have long been used in American culture for characterizing nature and encompassing the grandeur of the wilderness are becoming outdated. The terms shown above that go hand in hand with nature are being marginalized and limited to purely academic use and in conservation movements, things far from the mainstream general public. The shift to a virtual, electronic world is a trend that is taking the world by storm, and could possibly concretely alter the values and subsequent vocabulary of general society.