Words associated with Christianity have been removed from an Oxford University Press children’s dictionary for the United Kingdom. Editors justified the changes by citing declining church attendance and multiculturalism.
Lisa Saunders, a mother of four from Northern Ireland, compared various editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary after discovering that the words “moss” and “fern” had been removed from her son’s edition, the Daily Telegraph reports.
She discovered that many words associated with Christianity had been removed, in addition to words associated with the monarchy and the natural world.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the deleted Christian words include abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, and vicar.
New words were inserted based on word frequency and included the words allergic, curriculum, celebrity, and MP3 player.
Vineeta Gupta, who is in charge of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, described the aims of the Junior Dictionary to the Daily Telegraph.
"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance,” Gupta said. “That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. 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."
Gupta said the publishing company produces 17 children’s dictionaries with different selections and numbers of words.
Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the center for education and employment at Buckingham University, argued that the word selections reflect the way childhood is moving “away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”
“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,” he continued.