Building word power

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, would like sleep. Margaret Hodge, former children's minister, prefers society. And Emma Forbes, TV presenter, just wants chocolate.

Theirs are among the celebrity entries to an online "wall of words", being compiled by children's charity, I Can. The aim is to highlight simple and fun ways in which children can develop communication skills. The virtual wall is comprised of individual bricks, each containing one word. MPs, TV presenters and playwrights are among those who have contributed. So Carol Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher's daughter and I'm A Celebrity winner, has submitted "no" - "because it's useful for getting out of trouble". Jon Snow, TV journalist, has volunteered "discombobulated", "because I often am".

And Ed Davey has chosen "sleep". The Lib Dem MP has also tabled an early-day motion in Parliament in support of the website. "I chose sleep, because I don't get a lot of it," he said. "It sounds nice and peaceful.

"This campaign is fundamental. Some youngsters' parents don't give them the right level of vocabulary and articulation. And the school curriculum doesn't encourage speaking and listening enough. But these are key skills for improving standards."

Non-celebrity wordsmiths are also invited to submit their own favourites.

So the wall includes the mellifluous sounds of "lugubrious", "marshmallow"

and "mellifluous" itself.

Other participants prefer to debate the relative merits of "oblong" and "rectangle". Jolante Lasota, of I Can, said: "Words are the building-blocks of life. Through words, we build relationships and develop our identity.

Words can mean different things to different people. As well as teaching children to communicate, we need to listen to them."

School-age contributors have volunteered "pandemonium" ("it sounds exciting, but it means chaos"), "moose" ("it makes me giggle") and "anthropomorphism" ("because it's ridiculous to say beetles think the same as people").

And one teacher suggested that "digress" deserved inclusion, because "my class does this all the time. It's when learning happens".

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