O Tempora

Two articles with contents one would be hard pressed to make up, and both of which I could image being the content of Wendell Berry’s nightmares.

First, the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary decided to take out lots of old, good, pleasant-sounding words having to do with God, the countryside, and history, and replace them with horrible nasty words having to do with technology, pop culture, and colourless academic/policy hack speak. One need hardly look further for a snapshot of the destructiveness of post-industrial capitalist culture, really.

Some of the words removed: mistletoe, goblin, altar, bishop, monastery, monk, psalm, saint, sin, duchess, duke, decade, heron, kingfisher, lark, ox, oyster, thrush, weasel, apricot, ash, county, cowslip, fern, hazelnut, primrose, sheaf, walnut, willow.

And some included: Blog, voicemail, attachment, database, cut and paste, celebrity, creep, citizenship, EU, brainy, boisterous, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, biodegradable, dyslexic, food chain, trapezium, alliteration, curriculum, classify, block graph.

Of course, I doubt very much the editors have any particular animosity towards God or saint or trees or countryside. Rather, for them, those things, being impractical, have no place in a child’s vocabulary. They defend the removals by arguing that Britain is now a multifaith, multiculture society- but then why not include words having to do with other faiths and cultures? And why remove the countryside words? No, rather, what they meant is Britain is a society in which either no goes to church or into the countrside, or rather, they ought not, and they certainly aren’t to be expected to read or write about it.

Second, it turns out that big government ‘conservatism’ (what are we conserving, again? Oh, right, big capital!) is a jolly fine idea, really, writes Bill Kristol. Small isn’t beautiful– it’s not very practical nor very likely, not unlike those outdated words the wise Oxford editors jettisoned.  Of course, not just any big-government is meant- no, while silly ‘liberals’ want to repair roads and bridges and schools, what we need are bigger and better bombs and bullets. Why bother about building bridges when you could be blowing up bridges in other people’s countries? Yes, Mr Kristol tells us, government should be limited- limited to war, destroying domestic freedom, and saving corporate capitalism.

One thought on “O Tempora

  1. And there we were teaching our children nursery rhymes about “One old Oxford ox opening oysters”.

    And I remembered a friend saying to me, 35 years ago, after a meeting of Sunday School teachers discussing a “child-centred curriculum”, that all we would ever have would be a curriculum-centred curriculum.

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