Debra to the rescue of words too good to lose

After row over children’s dictionary, former teacher releases book of ‘endangered’ words

Friday, 3rd August 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Debra Thompson

Former teacher Debra Thompson: ‘Hearing about the words being removed made me very sad and upset’

TWO years ago, leading literary figures hit out at a decision to remove selected words about nature from a children’s dictionary.

Crouch Hill writer Debra Thompson is now fighting their corner by releasing her own book of “endangered” words. She is determined to keep them in the forefront of youngsters’ minds.

Words such as acorn, bluebell and hamster are no longer included in the Oxford Junior Dictionary.

Critics say more modern words, such as broadband and Black­Berry smartphone have instead been included.

Ms Thompson, a former teacher, said: “With children on com­pu­ters and games all the time, it means they don’t get out in the countryside so much and when they do they don’t recognise what kind of tree it is.

“In the book, there’s a horse chestnut tree, an ash tree, traditional things like holly and mistletoe, tulips, crocus.”

Her book, The Illustrated Dictionary of Endangered Words, contains 85 of the words taken out of the Oxford dictionary alongside her watercolour paintings.

“Hearing about the words being removed made me very sad and very upset,” said 74-year-old Ms Thompson, of Trinder Road. “If children see these things and can’t put a name to them, what can they do? Hence the illustrations.”

Authors Margaret Atwood, Simon Barnes and former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion were among those who asked Oxford University Press to restore the words. OUP said it did introduce new words about nature, among 400 other words about the natural world. The remov­ed words appear in Oxford Primary Dictionary.

Ms Thompson’s book is stocked at the British Library shop and indepe­n­dent bookshops. To buy a copy, email

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