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Loss of the word cygnet from The Oxford Junior Dictionary.

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Quote from a book review:

In the same year that Macfarlane was first shown the Peat Glossary of Lewis, the philological turnstile was cranked into action for a new updated edition of The Oxford Junior Dictionary. Words deemed irrelevant to a 21st-century childhood were removed from the dictionary, while other new coinages gained admission in their place.

When people began to grow alarmed by the deletions from the new edition, Oxford University Press was forced to release a list of words that had been removed. Among them were: ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, heather, heron, kingfisher, lark, nectar, pasture and willow. New words coming the other way through the turnstile included: attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, cut-and-paste, MP3 player, and voice-mail.

There is an unavoidably tragic note to the excision of a tree such as "willow" or a waterbird such as "heron" from the linguistic landscape of future generations. Not to mention the removal of the chthonic poetry of "cowslip". One wonders too whether the "cygnet" is not somehow having its very future removed by being cut from the dictionary's pages.

Indeed, Macfarlane's implication in Landmarks is that if there is no need for a cygnet in the lexicon of new generations there may not be any swans around by the time they are old.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/landmarks-review-robert-macfarlane-laments-the-loss-of-the-language-of-nature-20150518-gh2g22.html#ixzz3ue5UuuOV

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the Oxford Junior Dictionary is a small (288 page, large typeface) dictionary intended for children perhaps 5-7 years old, with a relatively small word list. The publisher made this comment:

"“The Oxford Junior Dictionary is very much an introduction to language. It includes around 400 words related to nature including badger, bird, caterpillar, daffodil, feather, hedgehog, invertebrate, ladybird, ocean, python, sunflower, tadpole, vegetation, and zebra. Many words that do not appear in the Oxford Junior Dictionary are included in the Oxford Primary Dictionary; a more comprehensive dictionary designed to see students through to age 11. Words included in this title include mistletoe, gerbil, acorn, goldfish, guinea pig, dandelion, starling, fern, willow, conifer, heather, buttercup, sycamore, holly, ivy, and conker."

Seriously, anyone who says "There is an unavoidably tragic note to the ... removal of the chthonic poetry of "cowslip" is just being pretentious. Do you know many 6 year olds who need to know what a cowslip is? Or a cygnet? really? And if they do, they can look in a larger dictionary.

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I can't imagine why kids 5-7 years of age would need to learn words like broadband, bullet-point or cut-and-paste. And certainly not chatroom; at that age, it's just creepy.

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acorn, bluebell, buttercup, fern, heather, heron, ivy, lark mistletoe, pasture

are significant omissions. No poets for that generation.

And if not cowslips, the common name for Primula vulgaris, what are you left with to call those yellow flowers which grow so profusely in lawns in England and France?

,

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I wonder if there weren't any words for outdated technology that they could have replaced instead of the flora and fauna. Where does Superman change his clothes these days?

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For heaven's sake, they haven't taken the words out of the LANGUAGE, just out of this particular small dictionary.

By the way "cygnet(s)" appears 28 times out of 100 million words in the British National Corpus. 28 times. Out of 100 MILLION. Without looking at the entire wordlist in the dictionary, you cannot make judgements about what should have been put in and what left out.

Flora and fauna are almost infinite lexical sets. You just can't put everything in a small dictionary.

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I think the major problem is that they see fit to eliminate words pertaining to the natural world we all live in, and substitute words given to us by the commercial world of digital technology--talk about creepy!

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Stage Right, that's what bothers me as well. Are we all THAT removed from the natural world? Surely there are other nouns that we can part with?

I would love to know how many of those decision-makers were male vs. female.

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as a matter of fact, many lexicographers are female and they make their decisions re inclusion by looking at the frequency of words in a very large representative sample of text, not on whim. This is such a tempest in a teapot about a small dictionary.

When y'all have tried to write a dictionary, and to fit what you can into the space that you have available that can sell at a price that people will pay, then come back and tell us which words should go in and which should be left out. In the same 100 million word corpus where "cygnet" appeared 28 times, "celebrity/celebrities" (which is not a "new word" having been in English since the 1600s and even in its current sense since the 1850s) appeared 650 times. Which one would you leave in and leave out? Which decision do you think would serve your users best?

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as a matter of fact, many lexicographers are female and they make their decisions re inclusion by looking at the frequency of words in a very large representative sample of text, not on whim. This is such a tempest in a teapot about a small dictionary.

When y'all have tried to write a dictionary, and to fit what you can into the space that you have available that can sell at a price that people will pay, then come back and tell us which words should go in and which should be left out.

Doubtless writing a dictionary is what Freud would call "an impossible profession" -- hats off to those writers (male and female) by all means. But I'm still just fine with debating the choices dictionary writers/editors make. Discussions that playfully, seriously, ironically or ambitiously make the case for and against! Arguing about words is one of things words were invented to do.

And if those words speak to larger realities, then all the more reason for debate--however playful or intense. In the case of this thread I'd have said often playful.

As for "cygnet" -- Is it pissing in the wind to mourn a word dropped from a small dictionary for presumably sensible reasons? Probably. But who if not ballet fans can appreciate the specificity of "cygnet"? Why not mourn (if one wishes)...if only with a wink?

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I learned the word "cygnet" from the ballet programs of my youth. Now I see that in its Swan Lake programs ABT is spelling the word as "cygnettes," which obviously is intended to mean little female swans but I cannot find "cygnette" in any dictionary.

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I learned the word "cygnet" from the ballet programs of my youth. Now I see that in its Swan Lake programs ABT is spelling the word as "cygnettes," which obviously is intended to mean little female swans but I cannot find "cygnette" in any dictionary.

LOL. Are they the bachelorette swans?

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LOL. Are they the bachelorette swans?

Von Rothbart's Odile's back-up singers. Like Bette Midler's Harlettes.

Oy. What was I thinking with" Von Rothbart." "Odile" is a dandy name for a certain flavor of world-weary chanteuse.

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