In a day and age where children would rather play on iPads than write or draw on an actual notepad, doubts about the creativity of our kids are starting to rise. Well, fear not: a study by Oxford University Press of the 134,790 short stories submitted to BBC Radio 2’s annual 500 Words short story competition by those between the ages of five and 13, has revealed a whole host of remarkable insights into children’s use of language in the UK.
Around the country, plastic came out on top because of the significant increase in its use since the 2017 competition – which goes to show just how much of an influence David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II has had on children, and we can rest-assured that the next generation will do their bit to beat plastic pollution. Interestingly, the word unicorn appears over 20,010 times in the stories of 2018. Elsewhere, the language in the stories reveals just how inventive, hilarious and socially aware British children are, particularly in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Yorkshire.
The top 10 words used more in the stories of Northumberland than anywhere else are compote, gumballs, mannequin, Disneyland, zealous, mam, hound, plastics, transmission and emoji, while in Tyne & Wear, mam, moustache, griever, abler, pedalo, angular, caribou, shopkin, rupees and reactor topped the list. Over in Yorkshire, the most popular words were dung, snark, scarab, broach, mamma, tig, bogey, rhinoceroses, crusher and wombat.
Historical figures and sportspeople also made an appearance in many of the stories (as is the case every year) – Donald Trump was number one, followed by Ronaldo, Messi, Hitler, David Walliams, Neymar, Usain Bolt, Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra, and Queen Victoria. The nation’s favourite singers (in order of popularity in stories) are Little Mix, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Olly Murs, and Taylor Swift – with the latter’s tune Shake It Off the most-mentioned song.
The 500 Words Live Final takes place this Friday from Hampton Court Palace Festival