Sunday, December 07, 2008

New Junior Dictionary Debuts

"It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc [English Socialism] — should be literally unthinkable, a least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever. To give a single example, the word free still existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in such statements as "The dog is free from lice" or "This field is free from weeds." It could not be used in its old sense of "politically free" or "intellectually free," since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive.

"Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum...."


— from The Principles of Newspeak, by George Orwell (Eric Blair), 1948.
Oxford University Press has published a new edition of its Junior Dictionary. According to an article in the Telegraph, here are the changes:

Words removed:
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
New entries in the dictionary:
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
Net 100 words removed from the dictionary: words overwhelming related to Christianity, the Monarchy, and nature. Added: a few words on computer technology, and a number of words related to political propaganda and contemporary psychology. Mr. Orwell is again quite prescient.

Oddly enough, many words about nature are removed, which is strange since Environmentalism is such such a strong political movement these days. However, contemporary thinking seems to care more for abstractions than in specific concrete individuals, which is a deadly attitude.

Dictionaries ought to be as large and comprehensive as possible, and best serve readers when they help explain that which is concrete and historical. Neologisms, of course, earn their place in comprehensive dictionaries merely by their usage, but are less suited for a compact dictionary, where space is at a premium, and where uncommon or easily confused words are those that really need to be defined. I recall in my youth one such new children's dictionary, that proudly announced the inclusion of such 'new' words as 'hippy' and 'sit-in', which I found so laughable because those words were already passé even as the book was fresh from the printing press.

8 comments:

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7705922.stm

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  2. Mark do you chase black helicopters too!

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  3. pfft. One goes to a dictionary to look up words of which one does not know the meaning. Every kid -- er, "junior" -- knows what an "MP3 player" is. They need to know what "sin" is.

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  4. so purchase them a different publishers dictionary! Everything seems to be a sinister plot, here. Is there good and evil? Absolutely! But to rant about a damn dictionary published by the Oxford Press is so far off the mark! A kid is not going to look up sin unless they are influenced by something else.....perhaps if Priests, Nuns, Mothers and Fathers did a better job we wouldn't need to go to a dictionary for its meaning anyway!!! Instead of looking to blame the weeknesses of society on the "boogey man" perhaps we should look inward first!

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  5. Puma,

    According to a statement by the editor, the changes were specifically made to make the dictionary multicultural, tolerant, and urban.

    Multiculturalism and tolerance are code-words used in political discourse, and in practice usually shows much self-hatred.

    For example, I've heard the story, from Peter Kreeft, about a Jesuit university that took down all of the crucifixes from its classrooms, so as not to offend non Catholic students. This is tolerant and multicultural, right? But according to the story, a Jewish and a Muslim student were highly annoyed because by doing this the university assumed that they must be bigots who would be offended by a crucifix. Rather, the truth appeared to be that it was the university administration itself which was offended by the crucifixes, thereby showing self-hatred.

    Self-hatred, from the point of view of moral philosophy, is a vice directly opposite from bigotry, and makes the error of going to the opposite extreme from racism. Foolhardiness and cowardice are likewise opposite vices, with true courage is in between. So a virtuous man would neither be racist towards others nor have hatred for his own kind.

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  6. "Dictionaries ought to be as large and comprehensive as possible"

    Absolutely.

    Puma, it is a common knowledge that if you want to get the populace to adhere to a certain doctrine you do it through language... hence granting legitimacy where it previously did not exist.

    EX: There is no legitiamte physological diagnosis "homophobia", yet the term exists and has become accepted as a real medical condition.

    Black helicopters abound!

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  7. sure those are hueys flow by the Army and Air Force at Fort Rucker in Alabama no conspiracy behind them!

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