Politics, elections, Donald Trump, and Pokémon GO are just some of the events, people, and subjects that influence British children’s creativity and use of language, says a report published today by Oxford University Press (OUP).
Following OUP’s analysis of the 131,798 fabulously inventive, funny and politically astute short stories for the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show’s 500 Words competition, a wealth of fascinating insights into the lives of British children and their imaginative use of English have emerged.
The Children’s Word of the Year is Trump, picked because of its significant increase in use (a total rise of 839 per cent on 2016) by entrants writing in this year’s competition and the sophisticated way in which children used it to convey humour and satire, and evoke powerful descriptive imagery. Every year children show a keen interest in contemporary affairs and world events from sinkholes and the London Olympics to the Ebola crisis, refugees and Tim Peake’s spacewalk. This year, Donald Trump took office as President of the United States in the same week that 500 Words launched.
Trump is mentioned in a wide variety of contexts, from the US elections and politics, to tales of space, aliens, and superheroes, giving expression to children’s creativity, playfulness, and humour. Children also use the noun to invent new character names including Boggle Trump and Snozzle Trump.
Children have been playing with blends, suffixes and prefixes to create new words improvised around Trump. In fact there are more than 100 instances of words such as Trumplestilskin, Trumpyness, Trumpido, Trumpeon and Trumpwinningtastic. Girl 10 in the Sticky Journey writes: “OH NO! I have spoken too soon… the train’s track has broken because a mean Trumpdiddlydumper blew a bit out of the track… Our Marshmallow Goblin-Trolls get to work immediately.” We even have stories featuring characters such as Donald Trout, Hillary Kitten, and Obama Llama.
Vocabulary associated with the US presidency was far more prevalent in 2017 than in 2016, including president, America, wall, Hillary Clinton, White House, Trump Towers, Obama, Mexico and Putin. Displaying an ear for Trump’s particular use of words and catch phrases, one entry stood out for its ability to brilliantly capture the rhythm of his speech. In Donald J Trump Goes to the Moon, a 12-year old girl wrote: “10… 9…8 ‘my hair is so amazing’…7. ‘And real’. 6… 5 ‘I am going to make the moon great again!’. 3… 2…1 blast off!!”