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

PUBLISHED: 08:33 14 January 2015 | UPDATED: 08:46 14 January 2015

Norwich City mascot Captain Canary

Norwich City mascot Captain Canary


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.

Words added in include:

Attachment – A file that often accompanies an e-mail message. Widely used to transfer photos, documents, music and videos from one person to another.

Blog – A regularly updated website or web page that is written in an informal style.
Broadband – A high-speed communications network which simultaneously transmits multiple signals, most commonly as an internet connection.

Celebrity – A famous person especially in entertainment or sport.

Committee – A group of people appointed for a specific purpose by a larger group especially in politics.

Chatroom – An area on the Internet where users can communicate, normally one dedicated to a specific topic.

Drought – A prolonged period of low rainfall which leads to a shortage of water.
EU – The European Union is a political union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.

MP3 player – A device for playing digital audio files.
Voicemail – The function on a phone which can store messages from telephone callers.

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Instead they have been replaced by words such as broadband, chatroom, celebrity, voicemail and committee in the dictionary for 7-9 year olds.

Words taken out include:

Bishop – A senior member of the Christian clergy. Norfolk has three bishops – the Bishop of Norwich, Bishop of Lynn and Bishop of Thetford.

Canary – A small bird native to the Canary Islands that is greenish to yellow. It is the mascot of Norwich City Football Club.

Conker – The seed of a horse chestnut tree used for the traditional children’s game of conkers where the seed is threaded on to a string.

County – Geographical divisions of the United Kingdown. In England there into 83 counties including Norfolk.

Duchess – A woman holding a rank equivalent to duke in her own right. The most famously duchess today is the Duchess of Cambridge.

Lavender – A scented flowering plant in the mint family, famously grown in Heacham, Norfolk.

Lobster – A large crustacean similar to shrimp and prawns. It is a delicacy which is caught in the sea off the north Norfolk coast.

Otter – A fish-eating mammal that lives in rivers. The Otter Trust was based in Earsham, near Bungay until 2006.

Poppy – An iconic flowering plant which has become a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime. Poppyland is the affectionate name for a section of the north Norfolk coast from Sheringham to Mundesley.

Poultry – A group name for birds bred for their eggs, meat and feathers including chicken and turkeys. Norfolk is famous for the breed of Norfolk Black Turkey and is the home to Bernard Matthews who farm 7 million turkeys each year.

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.

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.

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