acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, and pastureThis piece of news was the object of much indignation before Christmas as trigger-happy fingers clicked on a petition demanding their reinstatement. Apparently their omission is contributing to species decline and childhood obesity (I'm not making that up, it was in the petition). Such luminaries as Margaret Atwood have complained about this failing in the dictionary, so clearly something needs to be done.
My eyes couldn't have rolled any more.
I've got news for you. There are TENS OF THOUSANDS of words that the Oxford Junior Dictionary doesn't include. It's a SMALL dictionary. Perhaps all those petitioners should have had a look at it before they got so righteously indignant.
Here's a picture of one page (8x6"):
Some space-gobbling features to notice (all of them designed to be child-friendly):
- the typeface is very large
- parts of speech are written out in full
- plurals of every noun are given, written out in full (not, for instance as -s), and introduced by the word "plural", also written out in full
- all verbs are conjugated and written out in full
- a full blank line between one entry and the next
- when a word has more than one part of speech (e.g. heat, noun and verb) each part of speech has its own entry instead of the two being run together
- within each entry, each definition starts on a new line
- the definitions are very chatty, and often include example sentences
- very handy homophone-disambiguation boxes (hear/here, heal/heel)
Do you really think "cowslip" should be one of them? What will you have to get rid of to make space for "newt"? Which one of those words in the page depicted above are you ready to axe in favour of "adder"? Do you really think that "beech" is one of the top 10 trees? Speaking of which, where will you stop with the trees? Here's a short list of trees:
If you want to add "ash" and "beech", aren't all the others also deserving to be in? And you're not even out of the trees yet. Now holier-than-thou complainants want you to include all the flowers, birds, and animals as well. Not to mention that some other complainants also took against this dictionary because it didn't include "bishop" and other church-related words. C'mon everyone, jump on your particular hobbyhorse and complain to the dictionary that your words aren't in!
Bear in mind that this is in a day and age when people aren't willing to spend any money on dictionaries. Lexicographers are hyper-conscious about producing dictionaries at a price that people are willing to pay. They can't just keep making the dictionary bigger to include everyone's favourite tree, flower, and amphibian. This one cost me $17.95+5% tax (yes, I actually BOUGHT it to have a look at it before I started making pronouncements about it). I recall when I worked in dictionaries, people thought $9.95 was about right for a dictionary. They would buy the Compact Oxford Canadian Dictionary, a small paperback at that price that we lexicographers called "The El Cheapo Oxford Canadian Dictionary" -- and then write to complain that there were words we had excluded!
By the way, did you notice that the headwords are in blue in the Oxford Junior, to make them stand out better from the rest of the text and make it easier for the kids, who are just learning to use dictionaries? That costs more money too. I'm sure the lexicographers would have liked to add illustrations to the Oxford Junior but.... there goes more space... and more money. I can't imagine what people's reaction would be to a $25 price for a 280-page book. Well, actually I can.
When Margaret Atwood lets lexicographers tell her how to write novels, then she can start telling lexicographers how to write dictionaries.
Please don't sign this nonsensical petition.
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