Did you know that the Oxford Junior Dictionary no longer includes the words hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster and panther? The Guardian and The New Yorker both published articles about this in January, but I was apparently doing something other than reading the news that month because I’ve just learned about it.
The New Yorker makes the reasonable point that it’s not the job of the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to shape children’s thinking; their role is to reflect what is, not to enforce or prescribe a particular worldview. Still . . . this feels sort of huge. It feels huge the same way the decline of cursive writing feels huge. I get that things change, but no hamster? Really? I’m pretty sure my dismay is more than simple nostalgia.
We live through language. What does it mean if seven-year-olds now need cut and paste, broadband and analogue to get by but not acorn, almond, or blackberry? Yikes.
Over the last few years, I’ve begun to realize the degree to which my academic and professional striving have taken me away from so much of what matters, from paying attention to the world around me, from doing things with my hands, from participating in the practical aspects of my own nourishment. . . . from walking, knitting, gardening, cooking, listening to the birds and looking at the stars. I know that life is better with these things, but for some reason it takes real effort to keep from losing sight of this. I’m afraid it will be even harder for people in the future, people whose childhood dictionaries didn’t include the word buttercup.
Dogs are the ultimate antidote to disembodied living. Thank goodness for them. And knitting helps. I think that’s one reason I hold onto it so tenaciously. It’s turning out that this blog helps too in that writing it gives me a good reason to slow down and pay attention and reflect. So thank you for reading. It makes the process feel worthwhile.
Now, how about some dogs and knitting?
I was working on Gramps last night when the weather started to get crazy outside. Rasta was lying in my lap sleeping, but the wind and the beating rain started to make him a little nervous. Pretty quickly, this:
Turned into this:
Then into this:
Here’s a progress shot of Gramps.
I’m liking it. I’m not opposed to pooling, but in this case the fact that the color is staying random seems good.
I’m off to the dentist now. Hope things are safe and dry in your neck of the woods and that life brings you plenty of hamsters, herons, magpies, and newts. And knitting.