Like many “outdoor types” and children of the Fifties, my heart sank when I read that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had cut “acorn”, “buttercup” and “conker” from its pages and inserted “blog”, “broadband” and “voicemail”. Those who applaud the decision explained that it was a dictionary’s job to reflect modern use rather than to preserve our etymological heritage.
I have long been an avid user of the dictionary and I seem to remember, when I was younger, that it was there to tell me the meaning of a word I did not know. All the children of my acquaintance understand “blog”, “broadband” and “voicemail”. Why bother to tell them? On that premise, it would make far more sense to include “kingfisher”, “lark” and “mistletoe”; three more that have bitten the dust and whose meanings they are unlikely to know since they describe forms of life that modern children, the compilers of the dictionary opine, encounter so rarely.
If it is the priority of a dictionary to state the obvious rather than to encourage learning, then something has gone drastically wrong with our approach to life and – even more worryingly – with our relationship to the countryside.
Read more: The Telegraph