Notes from Jan

Lost and Found Words

February 7, 2020

A while ago our book group read Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman, on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Fascinating.

Recently, I learned there’s an Oxford Junior Dictionary, used in schools around the globe. They revised the dictionary in 2007, omitting about forty words related to nature.  The compilers substituted words like: attachment, blog, bullet-point, voice-mail and other virtual, indoor words.

Troubling.

Any parent, teacher or caring adult who’s tried to monitor technology-time, knows the challenge of getting kids outdoors and into the real world.  It’s true for us adults, too, trapped by cell phones, laptops and overstuffed schedules.

Concerned over the dictionary’s lost words, Robert Macfarlane, author, and Jackie Morris, illustrator, responded with a beautiful book in 2017 entitled, The Lost Words.

Spellbinding.

They collaborated to offer a magical look through word and art of twenty of the words deleted from the dictionary, I sat transfixed by the author’s descriptions and the artist’s depictions of the natural world. They lure one  outdoors simply through making an acorn worth a walk in the woods.   Of ivy he writes,” I am ivy, a real high-flyer, Via bark and stone I scale tree and spire. You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.”

We need help, like this book, to nudge us outside, to narrow the growing gulf between technology and the natural world. The response to the book  has prompted “a grassroots movement to re-wild childhood across Britain, Europe and North America.”

Word loss sometimes comes from hearing loss.  How well I know! The prophet Amos warned, “The time is surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land-not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (NLT Amos 8:11)

Good words, man’s or God’s,  heard and heeded, can become…

Life-changing.

 

 

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7 Comments

  • Reply Mark Taylor February 7, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Jan, I enjoyed reading The Professor and the Madman a few years ago. The research that went into creation of the OED is astounding. But I had not heard about the book The Lost Words. It sounds fascinating.

    And speaking of nature, we have not yet had this year (in the Chicago area) the kind of snow that is good for cross-country skiing. Hopefully we will get at least one good snowfall before the groundhog comes out for the spring season.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 8, 2020 at 10:26 am

      Until we read the book, I’d never given any thought to how words were chosen for a dictionary. Such laborious and fascinating work for which I’d never thought to give thanks.
      As for snow, perhaps you’ll likely get a storm or two before a crocus or daffodil lifts a brave face.
      Always good to hear from you.

  • Reply Carol Taylor February 7, 2020 at 10:29 pm

    We gave that wonderful book to Stephen’s six year old for her birthday. they love it!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 8, 2020 at 10:34 am

      Well, that doesn’t surprise me. You know good literature. Macfarlane paints masterful word pictures, using words adults may need to look up, so they, like the children, may expand their vocabularies. Fun for all.
      Love hearing from you, Carol.
      Spring’s rustling underground as I write.
      Hope on.

  • Reply Jan Carlberg February 8, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Well, that doesn’t surprise me. You know good literature. Macfarlane paints masterful word pictures, using words adults may need to look up, so they, like the children, may expand their vocabularies. Fun for all.
    Love hearing from you, Carol.
    Spring’s rustling underground as I write.
    Hope on.

  • Reply wendy lane February 8, 2020 at 10:54 am

    I put this on our reading list – thanks for sharing! Have you read “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi? We just listened to the audio book, it was so well written. This is from the NYT review: “The bittersweet news is that in the 22 months left to him, Dr. Kalanithi, who died at 37, went on to write a great, indelible book, “When Breath Becomes Air,” that is as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal,” to cite only one recent example of a doctor’s book that has had exceptionally wide appeal. To paraphrase Abraham Verghese’s introduction, to read this book is to feel that Dr. Kalanithi still lives, with enormous power to influence the lives of others even though he is gone.”

    • Reply Jan Carlberg February 8, 2020 at 11:23 am

      Yes, I’ve read both books. Both tender, insightful, well worth reading. One of the joys of this stage in life is time to read. I settle in with a book and enjoy a spa for my soul.

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