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The Lost Words, etc. … Second Time’s a Charm
This is my second release of this post. The original “The Lost Words yadda yadda” became … well … became lost. One day the post was there minding its own business and then next day POOF! Gone. Restoring from back up turned up … nothing. I suspect that while working to build my second website, I did something against the laws of nature on WordPress and as a result made my own post go poof. It was the first one I’d written after creating my second website.
My original post was written in a “grand” moment of inspiration. Therefore, I wrote it in my WordPress dashboard instead of in Airstory, which is not my usual habit. Also because it was a moment of inspiration, I didn’t download it to Medium which is also a habit that I have with posts that (I think) turn out well. The third and final failure is that I failed to download it to my home computer.
And THAT is how blogging lessons are learned.
Interestingly enough, since I wrote that post, my attitude towards losing words from our dictionaries has changed.
The Lost Words
Right after the start of the new year, I read a blog post called ‘The Lost Words’ by Lesley Watt on Art Elements which is a wonderful arts and crafts blog. The first thing about the post that caught my attention is the way Lesley uses big, beautiful words to describe her life, her art, and her interests. Her grammar is superb and she uses juicy, luscious words such as voracious, interspersed, and sumptuous. I really love reading her writing.
She has a deep love of illustrated books, they give her inspiration and color her world. At the time of the writing of the post, she was laid up with an illness and read an illustrated book that a friend had given to her called ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris.
The book is richly illustrated with glowing colors and each word is fleshed with acrostic poems that Robert M. calls ‘spells’. It’s gorgeous and captivating and made me itch to start painting again.
Lesley goes on to tell about how ‘The Lost Words’ came to be. In 2008 the Oxford Junior Dictionary started removing natural words from the primary version of its dictionary for children and started replacing them with modern words – broadband, wireless, Blackberry™. This means that children no longer have acorns, otter, conker (chestnut), Kingfisher, buttercup, and other words that describe our natural world to enjoy. With more children living in an urban or suburban setting that in the country-side, the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary have decided that children have no need of the words that refer to the beasts and plants.
Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris have created this lovely book to honor the words that The Oxford Junior Dictionary replaced.
The Internet And Where My Opinion Changed
In the original post, it was my contention that the internet was making us stupid by insisting we write at a junior high school level and that the Oxford Junior Dictionary is at least partially responsible for it. Wow.
A few things changed since I wrote my post in January of 2018.
- I’m starting to learn to write using my own ‘voice’ and discovered that I don’t really use long words or complicated words when I’m speaking. (take that ego!)
- The second thing was that I started writing a tech column on this website. The articles are written in easy to understand, simple terms because that’s what the subject matter needs. I also use some of the very terms that pissed me off at The Oxford Junior Dictionary for adding in the first place!
- I recently started reading The Fifth Avenue Artist’s Society: A Novel by Joy Callaway. It’s part historical romance, part thriller and it’s a definite page-turner. The writing is above par and Joy brings her characters and 1890’s New York to life with vivid descriptions. Though totally appropriate for the setting of the book and the characters, the words and their use are of another time. This was really the slap up alongside the head that I needed.
The combination of those three things made me realize that our language is a living, ever-changing thing and it must change with the times. The word usage of the 1890’s is no more relevant to us today as the language of the 1600 and 1700’s was relevant to the 1890’s.
The internet isn’t going away. Language has had to evolve. Language always evolves so we can describe our world and we’ve had to evolve with it or maybe it’s the other way around. With as much information as we now have at our fingertips, our words have had to change so that we can strain through it all to get the information we need. We need the new words to describe our new era. Can you imagine using 19th-century English to ask Geek Squad to fix your computer?
The Oxford Junior Dictionary
At the crux of the contention and the reason the illustrated book ‘The Lost Words’ was written, is the Oxford Junior Dictionary which has been replacing words that describe our natural word with those that describe the computer and internet world we’re moving towards roughly since 2007. The biggest concern is that the words that are replacing our natural words signify the increasingly isolated and solitary way children play today and signify more of an internal world rather than the big, glorious natural world we live in.
There’s a very compelling article from The Guardian here, published three years ago. Sadly, in that time, I’m sure that the OJD has replaced more of the natural words with the unnatural.
Snopes has also written a very unbiased article about the Dictionary Drama that continues on. A quote from Vineeta Gupta, the head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press states “We are limited by how big the dictionary can be, little hands must be able to handle it, but we produce 17 children’s dictionaries with different selections and numbers of words.”
That’s a logical statement. They produce multiple dictionaries. The words must be contemporary. Today a child is more likely to look up broadband than blackberry. That doesn’t mean the child is going to grow up not knowing what a blackberry is (the fruit, not the unfortunate smartphone), nor is the same child necessarily going to have a totally indoors experience without the benefit of having playtime outdoors. There have been city-dwelling children since the start of the industrial age and there have been country dwelling children with language shared between them.
Use Your Words
Sharing words keep them alive. The Oxford Junior Dictionary is not the only place a word exists. I was silly to think that.
Our changing culture adds new words every year. There will always be progress and change and we can’t stay back in the 1890’s or even in the 1990’s if we’re to survive an interact with the world.
So, use your words! Make them long and gorgeous or short and to the point. Use them whether they’re funky and from your teenage years or mechanistic or computeristic future speak or juicy and luscious. The world needs new words to change and grow. No one ever called an IBM computer ‘lyrically beautiful’ even though those words are still used to describe a sunrise or a pond with morning mist rising from it.
Words are incredibly important and incredibly powerful! A single word, sentence or thought can shape our lives into a new direction.
So go out and use all your beautiful words and have a Good Week!
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