After the Removal of 30 Types of Plants and Animals from the Junior Dictionary

After the Removal of 30 Types of Plants and Animals from the Junior Dictionary

Nature Morte II, Estée Preda,

The author was inspired by the removal of words from the dictionary to make more room for technology.

Acorn no more. Blackberry blanked out. Cheetah cast off.

But if no almond, because the young will use language for nature less,

by that logic, no arousal, brief surge of blood that cannot continue but lets lives be conceived. If no bluebell because flowers are fleeting,

no beauty to begin with for these bodies which wither. If no cygnet, the downy being preceding permanent feathers, then no childhood

since those who are sheltered under a wing cannot stay, not the same. As we might wish mother, many children’s earliest word, will always

be one they hold in mind, could we let their mouths keep

mistletoe, minnow, and magpie? Leave a few things intact,

allow the possibility of turning books’ pages in reverse

to lobster then leopard then lark, to the letter of last—of lasting—of live.

“In 2007, the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed words related to nature to make room for more words for technology on the book’s pages. I learned about this decision when writers, including Margaret Atwood, composed an open letter in protest, and many others have written about these exclusions’ implications about our culture and for the wider world.

What is most worrisome about dictionary-makers dispensing with words for nature is that it suggests humans are ready to accept the eradication of species other than our own, and the actual living things whose rightful places on this earth are threatened are more important than the symbols and sounds we use to represent them.

I am not a traditionally spiritual person, but, with some frequency, my writing sounds like prayer. In the case of this poem, in the final sentence, the imperative 'Leave' is not so much a command as a wish and appeal.”


From Forage by Rose McLarney, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. © 2019 by Rose McLarney.

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