Image: Ingrid Taylar, Flickr

A is for acorn? Nope, A is for analogue. Since 2007, the lexicographers over at Oxford University Press have inconspicuously removed some 50 words associated with nature from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which is aimed at seven-year-old children, in favour of terms more technologically in tune with the times.

What are some of the words that have gotten the axe? Bluebell, bramble, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, porcupine, stork and willow. In their place you'll find words like blog, broadband, database, chatroom and MP3 player.

While this might have gone unnoticed by most of the world, the changes spurred one nature enthusiast into action. Laurence Rose launched an online campaign to put the dandelions back in the dictionary – and in recent weeks he's gained the support of literary heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood.

In a letter of protest penned to Oxford University Press, the group of authors expressed their "profound alarm": "The rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem. This is not just a romantic desire to reflect the rosy memories of our own childhoods onto today’s youngsters. There is a shocking, proven connection between the decline in natural play and the decline in children’s well-being," they write. 

And they've got a point. I find it hard to believe that words like voicemail, attachment and database are capable of inspiring the same kind of childhood imaginings that leopard or lark can. And yet some might argue that the former are simply more relevant in the modern world. Oxford University Press maintains that their purpose is to "reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words."

Still, with countless studies showing the dangers of endless screen time (and the benefits of outdoor play), it seems kids are getting the wrong message when even their pocket dictionaries tell them that broadband is in and buttercup is out. 

For young children just discovering and naming the world around them, do we risk making nature less relevant in their minds when we jettison words that describe the natural world?

Top header image (modified): Crossett Library, Flickr