click The wall of my small back garden is smothered with a thick layer of ivy. It is a rather nondescript plant, so dull in fact that most of the time you’d scarcely notice it. But in autumn the ivy produces a mass of little florets, which on a sunny day attract clouds of brilliant red admiral butterflies, hundreds of bees and any number of other flying insects. For just a few weeks my back yard becomes a tiny, urban nature reserve.
see url The word ivy shares a sad distinction with many other words from the natural world including bluebell, acorn, heather, kingfisher, wren, dandelion, conker, newt, magpie, and starling. Such words are like a glossary of my childhood, the names of the plants and creatures that I would look out for on everyday sorties into the fields and ponds just down the road from where I lived. The sadness is that all these words and more have been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, the authoritative and highly readable guide to English vocabulary for children aged seven to nine.
This matters. It’s bad enough that our children and their children are faced with a potential environmental Armageddon for which they bear no responsibility, without now denying them access to the commonplace vocabulary of the natural world. While it is true that many schools teach the importance of environmental conservation, there is a danger that the notion of environmentalism will remain a remote, theoretical construct for children who have not blown dandelion clocks, picked up conkers from the foot of chestnut trees or rolled in itchy moorland heather. Children think from the local to the global, not the other way round.
Wherever children live in this world their respect for the environment is strengthened immeasurably by recognizing the sights, scents, sounds, and touch of things that live locally. And without names, these things lose their importance in the minds and hearts of children.
boniva actonel fosamax 35 mg If our children don’t learn to care about local birds, plants and insects, how can they appreciate that careless lifestyles can endanger distant forests, farmlands and marine life and even the water that we drink and the air that we breathe.
Please, let’s continue to teach our children the names of the living things that surround us – wherever we live, and whatever the writers of dictionaries may think. Don’t let future generations become lost for words.
P.S. Look out for a children’s book called “The Lost Words” by R. Macfarlane and J. Morris. It’s a sumptuous collection words and paintings illustrating wildlife names that have been lost from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The authors respectfully do not mention the dictionary by name.