It has been shown (and I can report anecdotal agreement) that children retain and work through certain information better with visual prompts to remind them of what they know until it becomes second nature to them.
Among the posters adorning the wall above the children’s computers is one outlining and defining the parts of speech. When I bought a new one this year to put up, it wasn’t long before our 10-year-old asked, “Mom, isn’t an animal a ‘thing’?” This caused me to look at the poster more closely because I had assumed that the definition of a noun was the same as it had always been:
A noun is a word which describes a person, place, thing, or idea.
However, I was mistaken:
It had totally escaped my notice that the definition of a noun had evolved to make clear that while animals haven’t quite yet been elevated to citizenship status, they hover somewhere between humanity and any other type of thing.
Now, to someone less cynical and conspiratorial of mind, this may read as much ado about nothing. Yes, I know Shakespeare’s meaning was different than my usage here, but deal with it.
However, as it was my common practice before we lost our beloved dog to gently correct well meaning veterinary workers who referred to me as his “parent”, subtle changes in language such as this tend to jump out at me particularly forcefully.
Just a random note taking of the current cultural landscape.