Endangered Words

Don’t forget about English?

All spoken languages evolve and change, none more so than the varied regional dialects and accents of the British Isles. But rather than focusing on the popularity or otherwise of tongues such as Welsh and Gaelic, for instance, experts have been concentrating their efforts on what many would consider as lost words from the English language, and some of this has come about for quite a surprising reason.


Magpie or Dalek?

Magpie                    Dalek






Man has never been more divorced from his country roots, and a recent National Trust survey found that only one third of primary school children could identify a magpie although nine out of ten could name a Dalek. As children grow up in a computer-driven digital age, much of their life is virtual, spent in front of the screen of a smartphone or tablet, they are ceasing to connect with the outdoors and enjoy the freedom of life outside in the country, a garden or their own imaginations. There have been many initiatives emanating from the farming sector to educate children about where their food comes from, but fewer driven by a loss of what many would consider to be normal everyday words. Now the Foundling Museum in London has started a project in poetry and art entitled, The Lost Words, in a bid to bridge the gap and resurrect many words which older generations would be surprised if not horrified to find falling out of use. Included amongst these are acorn, bluebell, bramble, dandelion, heron, magpie, willow and even conker, the latter probably a victim of zealous Health and Safety legislation which means that playground conker fights are now a thing of the past. The Lost Words project aims to highlight and showcase these words through the medium of poetry and art.


Oxford Junior Dictionary: Relevant and Beneficial?

There is a petition afoot to reinstate nature words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which has gained more than fifty thousand signatures and also garnered the support of the famous author, Margaret Attwood. Rather alarmingly, many of these words have already been absent for more than a decade. The Oxford English Dictionary said that its publications reflected analysis of the words that children were using so that the dictionary remained ‘relevant and beneficial’. However, some question whether that slightly defeats the object of having a dictionary in the first place, which surely is a place for children to look up words they don’t know rather than ones that they do, thereby increasing their vocabulary.

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