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Oxford Junior Dictionary dropping 'nature' words

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(Read caption) Youngsters from Canonmills School in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Treginnis Isaf Farm in 2005. Face-to-face with a day-old chick is 9-year-old Connor Stewart.

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"Blackberry," the small purplish fruit, is out, and in its place is "BlackBerry," the wireless handheld device.

The same goes for "magpie," "vine," "beaver," and "canary." These words have been dropped to make room for "mp3 player," "voicemail," "blog," and "chatroom."

In December, the Daily Telegraph ran a story about Lisa Saunders, a mother of four in Northern Ireland who compared the 2007 version of the Oxford Junior Dictionary with previous versions of the 10,000-word lexicon aimed at 7-year-olds. According to the British paper, Ms. Saunders noticed that certain words – particularly those associated with Christianity and the British monarchy  – were bring replaced by newfangled information-technology terms.

But in addition to words like "abbey," "sin," "vicar," "duchess," and "coronation," the dictionary had seen the disappearance of "acorn," "sycamore," "violet," "drake," and "cygnet."

The Telegraph quotes Vineeta Gupta, the head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, who said, "We are limited by how big the dictionary can be – little hands must be able to handle it."

She continued: "When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers, for instance. That was because many children lived in semirural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed."

The dictionary's revisions astonished Robert Bateman, a well-known Canadian artist and conservationist whose Get to Know program encourages children to connect with the natural environment. The organization released a statement that called the changes a "sad reflection of the fact that today’s youth are disconnected from nature and have almost fully replaced outdoor experiences with indoor and virtual experiences."

“This move will only help to alienate children from their wild neighbours. It’s taking a step in the totally wrong direction,” said Robert Bateman in response to the news. “If kids don’t know the name of something, they won’t care about it or think about it. This is especially true of our wild neighbours. How can we expect youth to care about porcupines or herons if they don’t know those words?”

The dictionary has seen the inclusion of some new words related to ecology and the environment. These include: "interdependent," "biodegradable," "endangered," and "food chain."

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