‘Plastic’ is this year’s Children’s Word of the Year, according to Oxford University Press (OUP), which has analysed the short stories submitted to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition.
Use of the word ‘plastic’ in this year’s 134,790 entries increased 100% compared to last year, with children demonstrating an awareness and passion for environmental issues, according to OUP.
Chris Evans, who revealed the result on his Radio 2 breakfast show, said: “Plastic is a fantastic Word of the Year! It really shows just how incredibly engaged with and how much the young people in Britain today care about the world around them.”
In their stories, children showed their understanding of how plastic pollution impacts marine life, writing stories with titles such as The Plastic Shore, The Mermaid’s Plastic Mission and The Evil Mr Plastic, but they also came up with ideas for solutions. One wrote about a ‘Reverse-o-matic Pollutinator Ray Gun’ for “zonking all the polluting machines around the world” and another created the ‘Fantastic-sewage-sooperpooper-suckerupper’ to “stop sewage going into the sea so people could swim in it without it being horrible”.
Use of the terms recycle and recycling also increased by more than 100%, as did packaging, pollution, plastic bottle, plastic bag, and plastic waste. Biodegradable and permeable were used for the first time and the word ocean,whale, dolphin, turtle, shark, penguin, octopus, and mermaid also featured in several stories.
Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries, at Oxford University Press, said: “Language empowers children, giving them a voice to express their passions and opinions, which they have put to powerful effect in this year’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s 500 Words competition. Children have shown they are acutely aware of the impact plastic has on our environment and how it will affect their own future. They have used their stories to devise imaginative ways to combat this issue and bring about change in their world.”
Other words or names that stood out were Emmeline Pankhurst, Donald Trump (Trump was last year’s Word of the Year), Brexit, Korea, Grenfell Tower, unicorns, slime, football and Fortnite (a computer game).
OUP released the results ahead of the 500 Words Live final, which will take place on 8th June at Hampton Court Palace Festival.