". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vocabulary Lessons

From World Magazine, the Dec. 27/Jan. 3 issue:

"Oxford University Press editors culled a number of religious and historical words from the latest edition of its Junior Dictionary in a move aimed at reflecting Britain's modern, multicultural, and multi-faith society. Words that got the boot included bishop, coronation, empire, monarch, nun, and sin, while new additions included blog, broadband, celebrity, MP3 player, and voicemail. Company spokeswoman Vineeta Gupta defended the company's decision, saying the size of the dictionary ('little hands must be able to handle it') limits how many words are included."

The dictionary in question is a children's illustrated version. It isn't intended to be all-encompassing. So I understand the need to make room for new words by weeding out outdated ones. But it surprises me that in Great Britain they would remove words like monarch and coronation. These words seem so central to their identity and history. They still have a royal family, for Pete's sake! But even more bewildering to me is trading sin for celebrity. What are the editors thinking? Oh, right--sin is so old-fashioned, so pásse--who needs a word like sin in our tolerant, progressive, enlightened postmodern world? ". . . [T]here is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" (Hamlet II.ii.255-57). But celebrity--now there's a word that matters. There's a word our children really need to know.

I'm so glad that the people in a position to make these decisions have our children's best interests at heart, aren't you?


Big Doofus said...

What has more impact, removing sin from the dictionary or from the pulpit? It seems like they are both very effective. Interesting article. Thanks for sharing it.

Laura said...

If "sin" is removed from the dictionary, does that mean that juniors are no longer sinning, or does it mean that they no longer worry about it? What a ridiculous culling.