Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Language reflects cultural norms

Language changes and so should dictionaries. I am not adverse to changing dictionaries to better suit the need of both children and adults, but rather what this article about the changes in a children’s dictionary (published by Oxford University Press) indicate ever more strongly the changes in the values, beliefs and norms of our Western culture. Thank you, Sarah for pointing out this article on your blog.

According to the article here are the words that were taken out and what they were replaced with:

Words taken out: 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
Words put in: 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

Clearly many references to Christianity were removed including sin, devil, disciple, and minister, while more modern technological terms were included. Some of the included words make sense in our modern world. Other words fascinate me, in that I would have thought they would already have been included. Does the use of such terms as celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, childhood, drought, bilingual, committee, cope, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, endangered, food chain, and classify give us some insight into the changes in our culture over the last couple of decades? If anyone has had a chance to see this dictionary please let me know how they define the term tolerant. For, I wonder if the now definition of the term has less to do with forbearance, and more to do with an acceptance of all views as equally valid?

There are more terms that have to do with politically correct views of human caused global warming and evolution, while at the same time a removal core terms of historic Christianity. Does this surprise anyone? The more important aspect of this is that the language we use often reflects the norms and beliefs of our culture. As Western culture continues to become more post-Christian, more of this will happen. As evangelical Christians will we have to better explain what sin is? What grace is? Who the devil is? What true tolerance looks like? What being a disciple looks like? You bet! What is so much at the heart of the problem with the evangelical church is that we have lost our passion for education, in favor of worship as good feeling/emotion time. Don’t get me wrong. I believe worship time should touch our emotions and make us feel, but that is done through the enlightening of the heart in God’s Truth. Where is our passion for truth?

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January 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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