Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo are among the authors criticizing Oxford University Press's decision to scrap a number of words associated with nature from its junior dictionary.
In an open letter released on Monday, 28 writers said they are "profoundly alarmed" and urged the publisher to reinstate words cut since 2007 in the next edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary.
"We base this plea on two considerations. Firstly, the belief that nature and culture have been linked from the beginnings of our history," reads the letter.
"Secondly, childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem."
Some words that have been removed, according to the letter, include the names for 30 species of plants and animals — such as acorn, blackberries and minnows. British media report that such words were replaced with up-to-date terms like analogue, broadband and cut-and-paste.
The authors write that it's "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, adding that obesity and anti-social behaviour are some consequences.
No plans for new dictionary, publisher says
"We recognize the need to introduce new words and to make room for them and do not intend to comment in detail on the choice of words added. However, it is worrying that in contrast to those taken out, many are associated with the interior, solitary childhoods of today."
In a statement published in the Guardian newspaper, a spokesperson for the Oxford University Press said the dictionaries are "designed to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages."
The Oxford Junior Dictionary has about 400 words dedicated to nature, the spokesperson said, including "badger, bird, caterpillar, daffodil, feather, hedgehog, invertebrate, ladybird."
"We have no firm plans to publish a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary at this stage. However, we welcome feedback on all our dictionaries and feed this into the editorial process."