The excision by the publishers of the Oxford Junior dictionary of about 50 words relating to the natural world — acorn, minnow and newt, among others — has caused quite a rustle in the hedgerow.

No less a social prophet than Margaret Atwood is one of a group of authors who have lambasted the decision as "shocking and poorly considered".

They think the omissions will have a direct effect on the amount of time children spend playing outdoors, with consequent adverse effects on health.

But this is no longer a world in which children don wellies and sou'westers to go outside and play conkers while badgers and moles look on.


Lurking behind such wistful criticism is a darker paranoia: this is social engineering, making way for the rise of the machines and our robot overlords.

But really, the writers are complaining that the dictionary has been made more relevant. The same critics, or their grandparents were probably on hand when the dictionary quietly dropped spinning jenny, wainwright and serf.

New words now taking their place in kids' lexicon include analogue, blog and cut and paste — unarguably less lovely than the words they replace. Scanning the British media suggests more useful words for British children would include alienation, bomb threat and wealth gap.

In light of this, perhaps it's time to look at our children's dictionaries and consider what could be done to make them more relevant. Many words describing things that are no part of children's experience here could be omitted:

House: in the sense of a dwelling you and your family might inhabit.

Equality: in the sense of an ideal shared by a community.

Community: in the sense of a group of people who share ideals.

Ideals: things worth fighting for that make the world a better place in which to live.


River: in the sense of something in which it is safe to swim.

Lake: in the sense of something in which it is safe to swim.

Beach: in the sense of something at which it is safe to swim.

Tree: in the sense of something you are likely to see in Auckland.

To take their place are numerous words that could reflect the reality of modern family life:

Bitcoin: what Mum and Dad lost all their money on.

Binge watching: what Mum and Dad do every night.

Texting: how Mum and Dad communicate with each other

Social media: where Mum and Dad shame us by talking about what we've done to annoy them, instead of using effective discipline.

• How to suck every jot of potential pleasure out of an activity?

Employ whoever wrote this social media post about lighting up the Auckland Harbour Bridge: "#Vector Lights will be bringing the iconic Auckland harbour Bridge to life. Be sure to join us on 27th January for what promises to be a truly immersive lighting experience.

"Vector Lights part of a smart energy partnership between Vector and Auckland Council in collaboration with the NZ Transport Agency will transform the Waitemata and become the guiding light towards a smart energy future."

What a magnificent melange of corporate cliches. They lost me with "iconic" and at "immersive". I rounded up the children and brought them inside where they would be safe.

"Smart energy"? Meaningless. "Transform the Waitemata?" I doubt it very much, whatever that means.

Reading between the mealy-mouthed lines, I'm guessing the bridge is going to be lit up — it might look fantastic. But you wouldn't know it from reading that piece of jargon-laden mumbo jumbo.