As a copywriter, I have an interest in language and linguistics. Actually, as a human I have an interest in language and linguistics. I love the shape of words, their sounds and movement, their potential and power. I like seeing how language changes over time. New words appear, existing words are re-purposed, and old words resurrected. Language evolves – as it must.
At the moment, the English language is changing more quickly than ever before because of technology. New words spring from the internet and are swiftly incorporated into our language.
Overshare. Selfie. LOL. Photobomb. FOMO. Emoticon.
You might not use them, like them, or even think of them as ‘real’ words, but they are all in Oxford Dictionaries.
The changing language of childhood
When I heard that Oxford Junior Dictionary (created for 7-year-olds) decided to cut around 50 words connected with nature to make way for 21st-century terms, it made me nostalgic for a time of Famous Five adventures and building dens in the woods. Words that got the chop include adder, catkin, clover, heron, kingfisher, newt and otter, to make way for analogue, broadband and cut and paste.
Of course kids need to speak the language of technology; this is the age they are growing up in. But I don’t understand why it has to be at the expense of the natural world. Does a childhood immersed in technology have to equate to a childhood devoid of nature?
I get that for urban kids otters and catkins aren’t a part of their daily lives (I was a suburban kid, and they weren’t a part of my life either). But why is it assumed that they don’t need to learn the language of the things beyond the confines of their environment? That’s the whole point of dictionaries; they allow you to learn about things beyond what you know.
It’s not even as if the species that were removed are extinct. The language of nature is being eradicated before the nature itself, which to me seems short-sighted and a terrible loss.