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No Royals, Christians, and Trees please: We’re British

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on December 27, 2008 4 Comments

What do the following words have in common: abbey, aisle, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, sin, devil, vicar, acorn, almond, ash, beech, blackberry, blacksmith, chestnut, crocus, heather, ivy, lavender, primrose, sycamore, willow, porridge, raven, starling, stork, pelican, coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire and monarch?

The Oxford University Press (OUP) has removed the entries for those words from its Junior Dictionary in order to “reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.”

The OUP’s head of children’s dictionaries, Vineeta Gupta, stated, “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 semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed; we are also much more multicultural. People don’t go to Church as often as before; our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Whitsun’ would have been in 20 years ago but not now.”

So, what words were inserted in place of the older ones? Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue, celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro, apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph.

I think the best comment came from Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police, “This is indeed strange since Britain still has trees with names, still has flowers with names and still has many people who consider themselves Christians, not to mention a still-reigning royal family.” Apparently the OUP editors don’t think it’s necessary children learn a vocabulary for them.


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4 Responses to “No Royals, Christians, and Trees please: We’re British”

  1. Youki on: 27 December 2008 at 7:33 pm

    odd, so many of those words are pretty crucial to teaching British/world history and literature.

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 28 December 2008 at 5:13 am


  3. daveski on: 28 December 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Yeah, it’s interesting (to say the least) that words about royal power and empire should be deemed ‘irrelevant’ for the multicultural youth of Britain!

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 28 December 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Reminds me of lines from an old poem, “An American in Europe” by Henry van Dyke (1852-1933):

    I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
    The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back

    The OUP seems to be trying to get away from that “culture of pastness”…by removing associated vocabulary.

    Any attempt to pretend the past never happened, of course, is doomed to failure…The past always informs the present…

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