Did you hear the one about the canary and the bishop? They’ve both been axed from a children’s dictionary

Norwich City mascot Captain Canary

Norwich City mascot Captain Canary - Credit: Action Images

Oxford University Press has dropped more than 50 words from its Junior Dictionary. Now two Norfolk men are spearheading a campaign, supported by 27 authors and naturalists, to reinstate them.

Norwich City have been known as the Canaries for more than 100 years and there has been a Bishop of Norwich since 1094.

So it is perhaps disconcerting to learn that the word 'canary' and 'bishop' have both been left out of the last two editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Other words synonymous with Norfolk which have been axed include poppy, lobster, otter, lavender, duchess and poultry.

Instead they have been replaced by words such as broadband, chatroom, celebrity, voicemail and committee in the dictionary for 7-9 year olds.


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But the omission of the words, particularly those which describe our flora, fauna and wildlife, has so angered two Norfolk men that have been moved to campaign to have them reinstated.

They have been joined by some of the most popular authors in the country in their bid to have more than 50 words relating to nature and the countryside added back in to the dictionary.

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Andrew Motion, former poet laureate and professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia, Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo are among 28 major literary and media figures protesting about the changes.

They have expressed alarm about the loss of the words in a letter written to Oxford University Press and voiced concern that the new words reflect the increasing solitude of childhoods today.

In the Natural Childhood report by the National Trust, findings show that only 10% of children regularly play in natural areas compared with 40% a generation ago – and 40% of today's children never play outdoors.

The campaign originated in Norfolk and was the brainchild of Laurence Rose, who works for the RSPB in north Norfolk, and local author and EDP columnist Mark Cocker whose latest publication was lauded as one of the best nature books for 2014.

Mr Cocker said: 'It's appropriate that this has found its bedding in the county of Norfolk, the campaign has been backed by a suite of people who are all passionate about the natural world.'

They believe that reconnecting children with nature is vital, and needs cultural leadership from organisations such as Oxford University Press.

Simon Barnes, an author from Norfolk and EDP columnist, said: 'Children need access to nature as never before in history. An Oxford Dictionary aimed at seven-year-olds should go out of its way to help them.'

A spokesman for Oxford University Press said: 'All our dictionaries are designed to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages. We employ extremely rigorous editorial guidelines and word selections are based on several criteria.'

The words were first removed in 2007, with protests at the time concentrating on the loss of a host of religious words like bishop, vicar and saint. The current edition, published in 2012, has kept these changes.

What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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