Lost words carved in stone for posterity

Words from nature deleted from the Oxford Children’s Junior Dictionary are being immortalised by artists in an exhibition opening on Friday (March 15) at Snape Maltings Lettering Centre in Suffolk.

Words such as “conker, “kingfisher”, “lark”, “fern” and “willow” that have gone from the reference book to make way for new words have been memorialised by lettering artists working in stone.

The loss of the words has been recorded in the book The Lost Words – A Spell Book by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris, published in 2017.

Above, Fern by Fiona Flack

Main image, Acorn by Eric Marland

“We are living in an age of loss. Decline, disappearance and extinction are all underway in the natural world at alarming rates” MacFarlane said. “This loss is happening on our doorsteps here in Britain; in our fields, woods and cities, where species from skylarks to starlings are slipping away from the landscape and from our lives.

“The work in this exhibition stands as a stay against this slippage. What could be stronger than stone as a means of inscribing and remembering? Each work names and honours an everyday plant or creature.”

Each of the artists was asked to pick a recently lost word, and carve it using the age-old skills that have been declining.

Among the exhibits isWren (above) by Robyn Golden-Hann. “My intention has been to capture the very flighty nature of the little wren, perched on the word, about to fly away at a moment’s notice” he said.

The exhibition, The Lost Words – forget me not which runs until May 26, is curated by the Lettering Arts Trust which is reviving the lettering craft.

“The Oxford University Press says that it needs to make room for new words: the likes of ‘blog’, ‘attachment’, ‘smartphone’, but should we be ignoring the words that make up the magic and mystery of our natural world?” said Lynne Alexander, Director of Education & Exhibitions at the Lettering Arts Trust, which marks its 30thanniversary this year.“If you don’t see, read and hear these words, in 50 years’ time they will mean nothing.

“This is not a protest against the OUP deleting the words, but a little insurance for the future against the words never again being spoken or understood. The carved pieces will reside in people’s homes or gardens, maybe in a woodland or marshland, but they will be there, strong and relevant for another 100 years or more.”


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