The Oxford Junior Dictionary & An Open Letter

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Authors, writers, broadcasters & TV producers are among those who have signed an open letter to the Oxford University Press. Why? Because they believe that the Oxford Junior Dictionary is being edited to exclude words linked to “nature & the countryside”.

The open letter which can be read here explains why “the undersigned” are so worried about the changes within the dictionary.

“We base this plea on two considerations. Firstly, the belief that nature and culture have been linked from the beginnings of our history. For the first time ever, that link is in danger of becoming unravelled, to the detriment of society, culture, and the natural environment.

Secondly, childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid
decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem.”

– Open letter to OUP

The letter goes on to explain that although they understand that new words need to be added at the cost of others they do not believe that so many words linked to nature should be cut. They write “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.”

I sympathise & understand where they are coming from to a certain extent. I agree that over the years it has been reported more & more that children are spending less time outside with friends & more time indoors alone.
This is something that saddens me as I remember the joy as a child of climbing a tree or running around outside with my friends.

The Oxford University Press states that their Junior Dictionary is “designed to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages”.

Personally I have no problems with this open letter & neither do the OUP stating that they “welcome feedback on all [their] dictionaries”. My only comment to “the undersigned” would be that as a child the OJD had absolutely no impact on my life at all. The words represented did not sway my decisions on where to play & what with.

My understanding is that a dictionary is almost a comment on society & culture. Words have to be used in a specific way before they are included & so chart the changes in our language over the years.
Surely then, the fact that the Junior dictionary has changed is a comment on our changing culture rather than an attempt to create a specific culture for our children?

Yes I would love to see words included that evoke a more natural & environmental world but if they are no longer being used to the same extent as other words then should they not be removed?
Surely if they were kept the OUP would be risking the production of a Junior dictionary that was no longer relevant to those it was created for.



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