Book Review – ‘The Lost Words’ by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane

By Bernie Bell

Someone, somewhere, decided that some words should be removed from some dictionaries. These are seen to be words which are no longer relevant to children. Words which children would no longer need to learn, as they don’t relate to their life, today. Words such as acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker, fern, and otter.

This is arrant nonsense.

If children don’t learn the word ‘acorn’ – how will they know what Piglet eats, in Winnie The Pooh?

If children aren’t taught the word ‘adder’ – how can they be taught not to go too near to them?  Even when they’re carefully concealed among the FERNS!

If there is no word for ‘bluebell’, what happens to the skipping song  Bluebellscockleshells, eevy, ivy, over. Daddy is the butcher. Mummy cooks the meat. How many hours can baby sleep? One, two ……”  And how do you describe that scent? Like no other – bluebell wood on a warm spring day.

If there isn’t a word for ‘bramble’, how could you tell children where to find black-berries?  Sweet, free, fruit with which to stain their teeth and fingers?  One of the joys of Autumn.

Do children still play ‘conkers’?  Or has Health and Safety put an end to that, too?  If not, and they do – what would they call what they are playing, without that word? And…if a child doesn’t know the word ‘otter’, some parts of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ will make no sense at all!

So, Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane got together and put together a book which will keep these words alive.

Robert MacFarlane is a walker and a writer.  Jackie Morris is a writer and – she paints and draws.  I should say that she’s ‘an illustrator’, but, somehow, that doesn’t cover what she does, it sounds too – tidy.  Jackie isn’t tidy, she’s a wild, woolly woman!

Lost WordsThey worked for two years and have put together a darling of a book.  My copy arrived through the post, all wrapped up in lovely purple tissue paper – it was like Christmas un-wrapping it!

It’s a book to start to read – and then proceed, or a ‘honey-pot’ of a book – to dip into for something sweet.

It’s available to order from Solva Woollen Mill .  If you are going to order a copy ( or two!), please do order from Solva Woollen Mill.  Amazon are cutting the price, and that means that, all down the line, people aren’t paid properly – including the authors.

How would you like to work for two years, then not be paid properly?

Jackie and Mr. Macfarlane describe this as a book of spells, or charms, to charm the words back into our lives.  I agree, if we all use these words, they will continue to be.

It’s not just  for children, it’s not just for grown-ups.  It’s just for people, people who live in the world, love what’s around them – and like to put a name to it!

Puppies might also like to chew it round the edges – it’s a big book!

And finally, a riddle from ‘Mary Poppins in the Park’ by P.L.Travers – the answer is one of the lost words…………..

Lost Words“Elegant the jungle beast

That lives in field and fold,

He’s like the sun when he is young

And like the moon when old.

He has no clock, and hears not chime

And yet he always knows the time.”

Think about it!


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14 replies »

  1. Enjoyed your good reveiw Bernie, and the book sounds great. I like Jackies art and we share a favourite artist Catherine Hyde

  2. Update…..1.7.16. Listen out for ‘Spellsongs’

    Jackie M & Mr. Mac
    Were having a discussion.
    They were appalled
    At the loss of words
    And decided to take action.

    They planted the seed of an idea,
    You could call it an acorn.
    It grew and grew
    And grew and grew,
    And more ideas were born.

    The root went down,
    The stem went up,
    And put out many branches
    Books for schools, for old folks – all
    Then, further happenstances.

    Musicians heard the calling spells,
    They answered with their vision.
    The words, the images
    Became sounds,
    All one, without division.

    The spell-songs ring
    The voices sing
    Instruments join the chorus.
    The vision expands
    Throughout the land
    Restoring the words –
    For us.

  3. Thanks for this lovely way to start the week. We have Lost Spells, a beautiful book, and if you haven’t already got it, you could also get the equally wonderful collection of songs inspired by it, with Karine Polwart and others.

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