A while ago our book group read Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Recently, I learned there’s an Oxford Junior Dictionary, used in schools around the globe. They revised the dictionary in 2007, omitting about forty words related to nature. The compilers substituted words like: attachment, blog, bullet-point, voice-mail and other virtual, indoor words.
Any parent, teacher or caring adult who’s tried to monitor technology-time, knows the challenge of getting kids outdoors and into the real world. It’s true for us adults, too, trapped by cell phones, laptops and overstuffed schedules.
Concerned over the dictionary’s lost words, Robert Macfarlane, author, and Jackie Morris, illustrator, responded with a beautiful book in 2017 entitled, The Lost Words.
They collaborated to offer a magical look through word and art of twenty of the words deleted from the dictionary, I sat transfixed by the author’s descriptions and the artist’s depictions of the natural world. They lure one outdoors simply through making an acorn worth a walk in the woods. Of ivy he writes,” I am ivy, a real high-flyer, Via bark and stone I scale tree and spire. You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.”
We need help, like this book, to nudge us outside, to narrow the growing gulf between technology and the natural world. The response to the book has prompted “a grassroots movement to re-wild childhood across Britain, Europe and North America.”
Word loss sometimes comes from hearing loss. How well I know! The prophet Amos warned, “The time is surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land-not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (NLT Amos 8:11)
Good words, man’s or God’s, heard and heeded, can become…
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