If I may be permitted a small rant – oh, right, it’s my blog so yes I can – I have a bone to pick with the people who think up educational phrases with which to patronise, sorry, educate young people. I’ve recently been volunteering with a local nature reserve and one of our tasks has been maintaining the garden around the educational centre. We have done the obvious stuff like making picnic tables, planting trees, cutting grass and laying paths, and some less obvious ones (usually to do with Messers Health and Safety, like filling in ponds and cutting off any branches at small-child eye-level in case they take it into their heads to run into a tree). And we have built a ‘mini-beast hotel’. A what, I hear you cry. A mini-beast hotel. Also known as a large pile of mostly rotting logs and stuff where invertebrates might like to hang out.
After tripping up on this repellent phrase a couple of times, I asked if we couldn’t just call it an invertebrate habitat like normal people. ‘Well, these are quite little kids, some of them,’ the educational expert replied. ‘It’s a bit much to expect them to get their tongues around a phrase like invertebrate’
I find this odd. After all, there is barely a six-year-old in the land – and certainly not the sort of six-year-old who would relish turning over a rotten log to see what’s underneath – who can’t lecture you confidently on the distinctions between a stegosaurus and a triceratops. And woe betide the hapless adult who muddles up their brontosauri with their diplodocus, let alone their Tyrannosaurus rex. Imagine the withering glances we’d get from the little darlings if we flannelled around talking about ‘mega-beasts’ because we didn’t want to confuse them with the word ‘dinosaur’. We’d be laughed out of the natural history museum without even passing through the shop. We’d be disgraced.
But, it seems, ‘mini-beast’ it is. And when the school children get to see this mini-beast hotel, they’re going to be rightly unimpressed by its lack of mini-check-in desk, mini-suites, mini-beds and mini-minibars. Still, at least if they do go beserk in expressing their disappointment, they’ll be safely able to run slap bang into the nearest tree without putting an eye out.