December 9, 2008
From Monks to MP3 Players
Oxford cuts churchy words from newest children's dictionary.
Sunday's Daily Mail and yesterday's Telegraph covered the removal of words associated with Christianity (and therefore, British history), fairy tales, and nature in the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary.
Words such as disciple, devil, monk, fern, elf, pasture, and willow have been removed from the 10,000-word dictionary and replaced with words such as MP3 player, blog, tolerant, democratic, and biodegradable - all to reflect England's multicultural, technological ethos, says publisher Oxford University Press.
Vineeta Gupta, head of children's dictionaries at Oxford, told the Telegraph, "Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as Pentecost or Whitsun would have been in 20 years ago but not now."
(That was probably a good call on Whitsun.)
It's a little unclear why both papers are reporting on the changes now, as the newest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary came out in 2007. Both papers cite an Irish mother of four, Lisa Saunders, who compared six editions of the dictionary from the last 30 years and was "horrified" by the number of words that had been removed.
"The Christian faith still has a strong following," Saunders told the Daily Mail. "To eradicate so many words associated with the Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it."
The Atlantic's Ross Douthat aptly noted that the removal of animals like gerbil and porcupine from a children's dictionary is particularly perplexing, perhaps more so than the removal of churchy words. Vox Day of World Net Daily, on the other hand, sees the word-swaps as warning signs of the destruction of Western culture due to immigration and pluralism.
A sampling of words removed:
Dwarf, elf, goblin, abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar, beaver, cheetah, colt, doe, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, porcupine, porpoise, raven, thrush, weasel, wren, acorn, bacon, buttercup, canary, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, county, cowslip, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, liquorice, oats, pasture, prune, radish, rhubarb, sycamore, vine, violet, walnut, willow
A sampling of words added:
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue, celebrity, tolerant, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro, apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, chronological, block graph