THE BAD NEWS IS THAT THE DICTIONARY IS DESCRIPTIVE. This article in the Guardian by Alison Flood reports on a letter of protest signed by a number of distinguished writers, including Margaret Atwoood, which protests against the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s omitting important nature words. Their concern is that children will not be introduced to nature words and will not learn to notice nature. They point to research which shows that 40% of children never play outdoors.

The bad news is that the the dictionary is descriptive. A spokesperson for Oxford University Press is quoted by Flood: “All our dictionaries are designed to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages.” Among the criteria used in selecting words for the dictionary is “the current frequency of words in daily language of children of that age”.

The Oxford Junior Dictionary is intended for children aged seven. When I was seven, “dandelion” was an an important word for me. Evidently, it is no longer part of a child’s vocabulary in Great Britain.

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