Words associated with Christianity, the monarchy and British history have been dropped from the latest version of Oxford University Press’s Junior Dictionary for Children to reflect ‘multiculturalism.’
Oxford University Press has removed words like ‘aisle’, ‘bishop’, ‘chapel’, ‘empire’ and ‘monarch’ from its Junior Dictionary. Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.
Indian-origin Vineeta Gupta, who is head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “We are limited by how big the dictionary can be. We are also much more multicultural. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as ‘Pentecost’ would have been in 20 years ago but not now.”
“The changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a multicultural and multifaith society.”
Academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain’s heritage.
“We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable,” said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University.
An analysis of the word choices made by the dictionary lexicographers has revealed that entries from ‘abbey’ to ‘willow’ have been axed.
Lisa Saunders, a worried mother who has painstakingly compared entries from the junior dictionaries, aimed at children aged seven or over, dating from 1978, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, said she was “horrified” by the vast number of words that have been removed, most since 2003.
“The Christian faith still has a strong following,” she said. “To eradicate so many words associated with Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.”
Ms Saunders realised words were being removed when she was helping her son with his homework and discovered that ‘moss’ and ‘fern’, which were in editions up until 2003, were no longer listed.
“I decide to take a closer look and compare the new version to the other editions,” said the mother of four from Co Down, Northern Ireland. “I was completely horrified by the vast number of words which have been removed.”
Anthony Seldon, the master of Wellington College, a leading private school in Berkshire, said: “I am stunned that words like ‘saint’, ‘buttercup’, ‘heather’ and ‘sycamore’ have all gone and I grieve it.”
Words taken out include carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, dwarf, elf, goblin, abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar, coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade, adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel and wren.
Words put in include chatroom, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, EU, cautionary tale, bilingual, compulsory, democratic and Euro.