Monday, December 22, 2008

What a Waste of Words

...and money is the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I am sure you've all heard that the enlightened editors have removed words that children no longer need; words like "nun" and "monk" and "christian" are no longer included. And if that particular word-ban does not bother you, try looking up "beaver" or "magpie" or even "acorn." This time of year, a curious young nipper might find "holly," but "ivy" is gone. He won't find the "almond" in his Swedish Christmas pudding, either. These words have been replaced by such modern terms as "blog" and "voicemail." In one change that borders on irony, the word "blackberry" was removed to make room for the word "Blackberry," with the updated definition: No longer is it a fruit, but a device.

None of this had to happen for me to rant against the silly thing called a "Junior Dictionary." Why not just hand a proper dictionary over to the kids when they are ready? What is a junior dictionary for, except to destroy the natural enjoyment of words? I recall tedious dictionary lessons in class using a junior dictionary, looking up a list of words, writing out the dictionary definitions. Yawn. Left to my own devices with a legitimate dictionary, I would spend hours at home reading the real thing, page after page, distraction followed by blessed distraction. So many words! Old meanings, new meanings, big words, small words, the familiar and the unfamiliar together, words with more than one meaning, all bound up in a big fat book.

And wasn't the size of the book an attraction? It seems that the one objective of the publishers of the Junior Dictionary is a consistently small size. Thus, when new words are added, "old" words are removed. Size matters, indeed, at least to the publishers.

So as children sit inside and play video games, rather than play outside or attend religious services, the dictionary is changed to reflect a brave new world. After all, if we kept words like "saint" and "sycamore" a child might become curious and wonder what he's missing.

Read more here and here.


Christine the Soccer Mom said...

I bought a junior dictionary for Big Girl, thinking that it would help her learn to use one early. I was disappointed. Gone were the normal pronunciaton keys, replaced with phonetics. DUH. If I know the sound those blends make, I can sound out the words.

Then, I realized that the girls couldn't find most of the words they were struggling to find. So I picked up an unabridged dictionary from B&N off the sale rack. $20.

And my girls will sit with it sometimes, just pouring over interesting words.

MacBeth Derham said...

A wise purchase, Christine. When in doubt, go with the real thing.