Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Children’s dictionary dumps ‘nature’ words

Children’s dictionary dumps ‘nature’ words via Next Nature

"Almond" and "buttercup" were ditched for "bungee jumping" and "vandalism"? I find this outrageous -- why not leave all the words in, but print everything on onionskin?

Perhaps all of this is moot anyway. I don't know about you, but I use the Internet to look up words while my American Heritage dictionary gathers dust on my shelf. Are paper dictionaries dead? Or will they exist for children whose parents are shielding them from the nefarious interwebs?

At the very least, let's please bring back "gooseberry" and "porcupine." Please?

Side note: Last week, new phone books were left in front of each of our apartment doors, but most people have yet to take their books inside, despite the fact that nobody is on vacation and all are perfectly aware that they have new phone books waiting for them like forlorn paper doorstops. I already threw mine out, and felt vaguely guilty as I did so.


  1. A flurry of Astridtivity on teh blog makes me happy!

  2. I haven't actually used a phone book in forever and I think I was one of the last of our generation to stick my finger down the long list of names in the yellow pages.
    At least they still make decent presto-logs should you have a fireplace.

  3. @jamie Hardt: Aw, thanks! The flurry was because I was avoiding real work.

  4. @Kent: Presto log? If that means what I think it means, that sounds like an excellent plan, if rather smelly and polluting.

  5. The nostalgia is really moving.

    Of course, we all know that languages are living things, and hence subject to evolution. Yet those who should know it the best, i.e. those with above-average command of and feel for language, seem the most uncomfortable with this state of perpetual change. There is always this feeling of regret and loss.

    On Facebook there's a group in support of Norwegian words and expressions that are facing extinction. Visiting it is like walking through a museum of lost childhood and national identity, instilling me with a mixture of melancholy and amusement.

  6. @punky: I agree with you that language is a living entity, and is constantly evolving, but I don't think that means we should ignore portions of our heritage, especially in a publication for kids who are still learning about the richness of English.

    Where can I find the Facebook group you mentioned? Is there an English translation of the site for English speakers who want to show their support?

  7. @psc:

    I actually agree completely, there's just this duality and irony that I struggle with myself that I wanted to get across.

    Speaking of irony, isn't it funny how 'blackberry' is to be taken out of the Children's dictionary, to be replaced by 'BlackBerry'?

    You can find the Facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=2243130728

    You won't find normal words like 'mandel' (almond) or 'smørblomst' (buttercup) there. Instead you'll find a great deal of idiosyncratic (and lovely!) Norwegian words and idioms. Of course, they tend to be intranslatable by nature. Some may have English counterparts, some sound completely outlandish (go figure!) when translated literally. Hence there is no translation to English available (that I am aware of, anyhow).

    A couple of examples:

    - 'Smør på flesk', literally 'Butter on bacon' (meaning a pleonasm)
    - 'Nesten skyter ingen mann av hesten', literally 'Almost shoots no man off his horse' (meaning that almost accomplishes nothing; note how 'hesten' rhymes with 'nesten')
    - 'Peppermø', literally 'Pepper maid' (meaning an old virgin)
    - 'Snikksnakk', intranslatable (meaning nonsense, 'snakk' means 'talk', 'snikk' is a nonsensical derivation)

    Among more common words are 'snedig' (cunning), 'knekt' (jack) and 'kujon' (coward).

    And so on and so forth.

  8. Wow, that was fantastically thorough -- thank you! And the bit about blackberry/BlackBerry is outrageous, sigh....

    Thank you so much for your Norwegian examples, they're hilarious! I LOVE learning wacky phrases in various languages.

    Thanks, too, for teaching me the word "pleonasm." I've been aware for a while that I'm guilty of redundant speech, but I didn't know the official term for my affliction until now. Does this mean I'm a pleonast? Is my speech pleonastic?

    I now want to start a rock band called Pleonastic Fantastic.