This year Santa sent a beautiful book to our family,* and I had to stop and write a few words about it because it has become a favorite evening ritual, and reading it aloud to our sons has made me stop and think about things like why we read aloud and how verbalizing certain things helps call them into being. Also other things like how woefully detached we are from the natural world and how we really need to just go ahead and buy that farmland already…
The Lost Words is a project that started as an indignant outcry. In 2007, the Oxford Junior Dictionary culled certain nature-related words from its selection, while those from…oh, let’s say…current media-driven culture were newly included. Acorn was rejected, celebrity added; weasel got the boot but vandalism found a place. While we all have hot takes of varying intensity, related to the yearly choice of words by the OED, there is something particularly offensive about this process of elimination occurring within the context of a dictionary for young people. First off, because we were probably less likely to hear about it (because really, who knows what’s going on the world of childhood education). And secondly, because the symbolic gesture of removing certain pieces of the imaginary from young people, those who need it most, and giving them instead a glut of words to describe a modern world in peril is just too much.
Children are themselves but they are also a metaphor for the depths of our collective imaginative potential. To see the world through the eyes of a child and all that . . . It is probably an unfair ask** of them, to be responsible for something of such magnitude. And yet here we are. So, to remove words from the dictionary widely used in their educational environments is to remove in some way the hope for our own imaginative potential as a society. It is to limit ourselves and our experience.
And so, from this vaguely dystopian tragedy of a story comes The Lost Words, with the conceit that it is not a children’s book or a book of poetry per se, but rather a “spell book” for calling the natural world back into being.Continue reading “Some Notes on The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris”