Analysis by Oxford University Press of short stories submitted to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition has revealed a fascinating insight into British children’s use of language
It would seem that politics, elections and Donald Trump are just some of the subjects influencing our little one’s creativity, with Donald Trump being the most frequently mentioned public figure.
Trump was picked as Children’s Word of the Year because of its significant increase in use (a total rise of 839% on 2016) by entrants aged five to 13 years writing in this year’s competition, and for the sophisticated way in which children used it to convey humour and satire, and evoke powerful descriptive imagery.
Every year, children entering the competition show a keen interest in contemporary affairs, from the London Olympics and the Ebola crisis to refugees and Tim Peake’s space walk. This year, Donald Trump took office as President of the United States the same week that 500 Words launched.
The word Trump is mentioned in a variety of contexts – from the US elections to tales of space, aliens and superheroes. Children also used the noun to invent new character names, such as Boggle Trump and Snozzle Trump.
Little ones have even been playing with prefixes and suffixes to create new words around Trump. In fact, there were more than 100 instances of words such as Trumplestiltskin, Trumpyness and Trumpido. Youngsters certainly aren’t shy of using it for comic effect, either, referencing its more informal sense of passing wind.
Political vocabulary is a notable area of growth in 2017, so says Oxford University Press, showing children’s engagement in news and media. The words politics and political show an increase of 115% on last year. New words and phrases in this year’s stories include Brexit, Article 50 and Fake News.
BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans, who launched the short story competition in 2011, says: “The OUP’s research is always such a fascinating insight into the minds of children today. This year’s analysis reveals just how tuned in they are to what’s going on in the world. It’s inspiring to see how they use language so creatively, having fun with words, using humour and bringing them to life through their wonderful unconstrained imaginations.”
The research was released ahead of the 500 Words Live Final tomorrow (Friday 16 June) at the Tower of London, with special guest and honorary judge HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. At the final the six winning stories will be announced on air by celebrity narrators, including Olivier award-winning actress Noma Dumezweni and actor and stage director Sir Derek Jacobi.