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Bring the lost words back to life


By Spalding Today Columnist


Conker, dandelion and bramble; what do these three words have in common? They are all commonly found in the countryside and in cities. As I child I played conkers, blew dandelion clocks and ate blackberries from brambles. I’m sure many of you did too. The other thing that they have in common is that they were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Along with a raft of other common nature words, they were deemed not relevant enough for children to be included in their dictionary.

A bluebell (2519372)
A bluebell (2519372)

Otter, kingfisher and weasel were lost from the junior dictionary. These species are harder to see but when they are spotted, it’s exciting and memorable. I could tell you about the time when I saw an otter on the west coast of Scotland. I’d seen its spraints first; it’s droppings that are left as markers on prominent stones. Or the time when two weasels were so engrossed in chasing each other that they didn’t notice me and almost ran over my feet. Or the last time I saw the flash of a kingfisher as it dashed down the River Bain close to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust headquarters in Horncastle.

Conker (horse chestnut) (2519384)
Conker (horse chestnut) (2519384)

Heron, willow and acorn were also axed from the junior dictionary. They were lost to make space for more modern words like attachment, blog and chatroom. These new words are all ones that are associated with a more solitary existence; with looking at a screen, rather than with being outdoors, exploring and discovering the natural world. It illustrates our worrying disconnection with nature.

A magpie (2519378)
A magpie (2519378)

Bluebell, starling, ivy are all gone from the junior dictionary. Seeing birds near our homes and walking through green spaces filled with wild flowers reduces stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It’s been shown that those that have the least access to nature also have the worst levels of physical health and mental wellbeing. We must ensure they aren’t lost from children’s experiences.

A starling (2519380)
A starling (2519380)

In response to the loss of nature words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, a beautiful educational children’s book called ‘The Lost Words’ has been written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. The book is a joyful celebration of these once-common nature words. Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign to get a copy of ‘The Lost Words’ into every primary school in Lincolnshire. Visit www.lostwordsforlincolnshire.co.uk to find out more. Please, if you can, support this campaign and give the children of Lincolnshire an exciting opportunity to bring these ‘Lost Words’ back to life.

A weasel (2519382)
A weasel (2519382)


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