Oxford University’s latest Junior Dictionary has omitted numerous nature-related words pertaining to plant and animal species, including “acorn,” “blackberries,” and “minnows”– a move that has several notable artists and writers “profoundly alarmed.” In an open letter detailing increased rates of obesity, lower life expectancies, and simply fewer opportunities to play outside for children today, author Margaret Atwood and others voiced their worries about this young generation and their increasing disconnect with nature. One of the most gripping statements in the letter is as follows:
“We recognize the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added. However, it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today.”
While the writers recognize that the dictionary omissions aren’t causing the nature deficit problem, they suggest that inclusion of these plants and animals will help shape the way that kids learn about and understand the world around them. The group, which includes poets, naturalists, and academics, implored the Oxford University Press to reinstate the omitted words as a show of support for “natural childhood.” A spokesperson for the press responded that they have no immediate plans for another edition to be published in the near future and commented that the junior dictionary still contains around 400 nature-related words.
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