We’re going on a newt hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.
Newt. One of the words taken out of the Oxford Junior Dictionary nearly eight years ago. Along with Acorn, Sycamore and 110 other words about nature and the countryside.
These are words disappearing from children’s lives. The National Trust, as one of the founder members of The Wild Network, is supporting the organisation in its new campaign to ‘reclaim’ the wild words which have been dropped.
A rap video, released to support the petition, sees father and Wild Network supporter Chris Packe rapping his way through some of the lost words. It’s a must watch, with close encounters of the elfin kind and the odd rhyme spat in French. Alors.
The petition and video come in the wake of a letter, organised by Laurence Rose of the RSPB and Natural Light, and signed by 28 leading authors in January calling on Oxford University Press to reinstate the words associated with nature and the countryside.
The changes were first made in 2007, with words like Primrose and Ivy replaced in favour of broadband, chatroom, celebrity and creep. Despite concern being raised at the time, the words remained out of the dictionary at a review of content in 2012.
Dictionary reflects life
The changes to the dictionary reflect a wider change in children’s lives – lives for which nature is a growing irrelevance.
Back in 2008, in an article in the Daily Telegraph Vineeta Gupta, head of junior dictionaries at OUP, said: “When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed.”
But children need nature now more than ever. And nature needs children too.
Words are vital to understanding the world around us; as much a part of experiencing the world as getting out there and sticking your hand in the mud.
‘No one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they have never experienced’, Sir David Attenborough has said.
The Wild Network exists to champion children’s connection with nature, sharing forming and storming to ensure that children in the UK have the opportunities to roam free, play wild and connect with everyday wildness. The National Trust is a proud founder member of the Wild Network. Through campaigns like 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ we’re working to grow wild time for children and their families.
Blog post by ‘wild’ thing, Tom Seaward