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The Lost Words
March 21, 2023
Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.
-Kong Qiu
To be read or sung aloud:

Dazzle me, little sun-of-the-grass!
And spin me, tiny time-machine!
(Tick-tock, sun clock, thistle & dock)

Now no longer known as
Dent-de-Lion, Lion's Tooth or Windblow,
(Tick-tock, sun clock, nettle & dock)

Evening Glow, Milkwitch or Parachute, so
Let new names take and root, thrive and grow,
(Tick-tock, sun clock, rattle & dock)

I would make you some, such as Bane of Lawn Perfectionists
Or Fallen Star of the Football Pitch
or Scatterseed, but
Never would I call you only, merely, simply, 'weed.'
(Tick-tock, sun clock, clover & dock)

In The Lost Words, richly illustrated by Jackie Morris, author Robert McFarlane pays poetic tribute to words like dandelion, above, "to conjure back the near-lost magic and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us."

From the Lost Words website:

The book began as a response to the removal of everyday nature words - among them "acorn," "bluebell," "kingfisher" and "wren" - from a widely used children’s dictionary, because those words were not being used enough by children to merit inclusion. But The Lost Words then grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their wonderful, characterful glory.

McFarlane explains: "We’ve got more than 50% of species in decline. And names, good names, well used, can help us see and they help us care. We find it hard to love what we cannot give a name to. And what we do not love we will not save."


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Comments (4)

Displaying All 4 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · March 21, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

And no, Francis, I won't tell anyone about the dandelion wine, but I have heard of similar fundraisers, though not in the US!

Kirsten Haugen · March 21, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Rebecca, I'm so glad you share my enthusiasm and love for this book and all it's birthed. I had heard of the musical versions, but hadn't seen the lesson ideas. Your sketching workshop sounds wonderful, by the way!
Francis, I love what your memories evoke. You, more than anyone, might appreciate my friend Holly's "Haphazard Homestead" recipes for 3 ways to fry dandelions! I can vet them - they're delicious! https://youtu.be/T29nfc0GRoE

Rebecca Escott · March 21, 2023
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States

I "discovered" this book several years ago, and it has given me such joy and initiative to speak nature words to children AND adults. For those who haven't explored it, there is also a Lost Songs CD that puts the poems to music, but this eclectic collective of musicians. It's lovely, food for the soul. AND there are lesson plans that have emerged, prompts for experiences with children. So, so much. Love that this has gotten the attention of Exchange! I just shared the book at a Nature Sketching Workshop with Environmental Educators. It's a coffee table sized, beautiful book. Worth the time to pause and think about the words that you might introduce children to!

Francis Wardle · March 21, 2023
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, 80222, Colorado, United States

Wow - dandelions are a central part of my childhood! We made dandelion chains to wear on our heads, ate dandelion salads (we were poor!), drank dandelion coffee made from its roots, and drank dandelion wine. As a teacher I actually made dandelion wine with the kids (don't tell anyone!)

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