Young wordsmiths show off their flair in story contest for BBC Radio 2

First published Sunday 31 May 2015 in The Argus

While hashtag has been crowned the country’s favourite word for school children, Sussex youngsters opted for the word squid.

Among this county’s other favourite words for youngsters are kite, typewriter, lawyer, and toucan.

The findings come from a survey conducted as part of this year’s BBC Radio 2 500 words competition.

Each year, Chris Evans runs the competition for youngsters to write a 500 word story. Experts then analysed the stories to find out the most common words used.
While the nation’s youngsters veered towards social media slang, Sussex school children opted for the likes of squid and lawyer.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “Language is constantly changing and adapting. Children are true innovators and are using the language of social media to produce some incredibly creative writing.

“What impresses me most is how children will blend, borrow, and invent words to powerful effect and so enrich their stories.”

She added that the word Stegosuarez, a hybrid of a dinosaur and the footballer Luis Suarez, is a good example of blending words, along with gloomful and chocoumptious.

But it was the word hashtag, most commonly associated with Twitter, that won the title as the favourite word.

The competition results showed a tendency towards adhering to gender stereotypes, with girls liking words such as cupcakes and unicorns while boys preferred words like farting and burgers.

However, both genders referred equally to soldiers in their entries, possibly due to the First World War Centenary.

Chris Evans said: “It’s clear that story-telling remains a hugely important part of a child’s life, and that we as parents should do whatever we can to help them enjoy the worlds they create on paper. “To use the favourite word of our young authors this year, their talent and imagination are #inspiring!”


500 WORDS has been running since 2011 and is a competition for children aged 13 or under.

The entries were marked by nearly 4,000 volunteer teachers and librarians before the Reading Agency drew up a shortlist of 50 stories.

Oxford University Press used a database of children’s language called Oxford Children’s Corpus to analyse the results. The database, the only one of its kind in the world, contains language written for children (34 million words) and also language written by children (173 million words).

The winners were announced yesterday on a special edition of the Breakfast Show live from St James’ Palace in London.