Nature-word extinction: when “Blackberry” replaces “blackberry”

Blackberry made a splash when it reported its results in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28. Financial newswires jumped to announce that the company’s quarterly sales was the lowest in eight years, and revenue, which slid to $660 million from $793 million, was well below estimation.

But enough about that Blackberry. Let’s talk blackberry. You know, the dark-skinned, juicy fruit. Like, the edible kind.

In fact, Blackberry has replaced blackberry when searching in Google. To find the fruit, you have to type in “blackberry, fruit.” (image credit:

In a beautiful essay celebrating words, landscape words in particular, Robert Macfarlane (The Guardian) writes that a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed a substantial number of words concerning nature. The deletion included the following:

acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip,cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe,nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow

New words replacing them included “attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity,chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.” Oxford University Press explained its decision stating that the deleted entries are no longer “relevant to a modern-day childhood.”

Adding to my dismay, Blackberry, the company, has replaced blackberry, the fruit.

I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I was alarmed by the notion that nature-words are considered irrelevant to our future generation. Does this mean instead of picking apples from an orchard or visiting an actual farm, kids will play Happy Farm instead?

Let’s see. Facebook describes the game as a “top farming game where you can raise animals, grow crops, harvest goods or steal from neighbors!” 


Are nature-words no longer relevant? Have we lost touch with the world surrounding us? I certainly hope not. While most of us are not as connected to our landscape as the Gaels were — as Macfarlane points out in the article, the Gaels have words and phrases specific to describing all aspects of the moorland. For example,

  • a caochan is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”
  • an afeadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”
  • a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer.”

We still have beck, brook, creek, stream, streamlet, river and rivulet. Okay, a maybe for streamlet and rivulet. But in the light of Blackberry’s recent results,would Oxford University Press care to change Blackberry back to blackberry?

I have no ill-feeling toward Blackberry, the company, and wish it to do well. The post is not intended to injure or damage the reputation of the company in any way.

2 thoughts on “Nature-word extinction: when “Blackberry” replaces “blackberry”

  1. Jon Jacobs

    Great catch, by you as well as by Mr. Macfarlane. Yes, kids need “relevant” information just as adults do; but they also need contact with (and understanding, and even affection for) nature, as you so ably point out. They also need literacy and a feeling for history. Oxford English Dictionary seems to have struck a very poor balance here – one that disserves both their audience (children learning the fine points of the language) and their historical mission of promoting public appreciation of the best aspects of English.

    1. Sherry Post author

      Hi Jon, I am so glad you enjoyed the piece as well. I am all with you on the need to understand and have affection for nature. Well said! Personally, I think something is amiss if for someone who has never had the chance to fall into a pile of crunchy autumn leaves, or breathe in a chestful of freshly mown grass smell — agree?


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