A leading children’s dictionary has ditched words relating to Christianity to make space for new terms like “MP3 player” and “Euro”.
Oxford University Press defended the changes to its 10,000 word Junior Dictionary as necessary to reflect modern, multicultural Britain.
But parents, teachers and academics have responded with dismay at the loss of terms like “vicar” and “chapel”.
A number of countryside words and terms relating to the monarchy and British history were also taken out in favour of words like “biodegradable” and “citizenship”.
One mother, Lisa Saunders, was “horrified” that so many words had been removed from successive editions of the dictionary over recent years.
She said: “The Christian faith still has a strong following.
“To eradicate so many words associated with Christianity will have a big effect on the numerous primary schools who use it.”
Mrs Saunders said parents should know which words were being “airbrushed out of children’s lives”.
She said: “Children can be so easily manipulated when they’re learning things – if they don’t come across these words at a young age they’re never going to use them.”
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment at Buckingham University, said the word selections reflect “the way childhood is going, moving away from our spiritual background”.
He said: “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.”
Vineeta Gupta, the head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, defended the move, saying: “People don’t go to Church as often as before.
“Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Whitsun’ would have been in 20 years ago but not now.”
But Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, a leading private school, said the dictionary “has a duty to keep these words within usage, not merely pander to an audience.
“We are looking at the loss of words of great beauty.”
Words taken out:
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, wren.
Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow
Words put in:
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue
Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro
Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph