Thursday, 30 May 2013

Radio Two's Children's Writers

  • BBC Radio 2 has just announced the results of its short story competition aimed at children up to the age of 13. Oganised by the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, this is the second year the Oxford University Press has analysed the words (all 40 million of them) within the entries in order to monitor and track children's language.
    There were nearly 100,000 entries to the 500 word length competition, and I was delighted by some of their contents. For instance, children writers are using similes that might make some adult writers look cliched and stale. What about; 
  • As trustworthy as a fox with a chicken feather poking out of its mouth
  • As slow as a snail with 25 shells on its back
  • As boring as a cake with no candles
  • My heart fades like a balloon with a hole in it
  • "WHAT? Noooooooooo!" howled Lydiea, like a werewolf with a toothache
  • Her face looked like a pig with chickenpox
  • He's crying out like a grasshopper with a burnt leg
A model as Mary Poppins 
Children have the Mary Poppins touch for made-up language

Here are some of the new words they invented in their stories - such great ones, such as fridgemarine and shrinkinganator, that a data base has been created. Here are some of the best;
He made a disflomaticinator. It would make stuff from the past come into the present and stuff from the future come into the present. I will sell this on eBay, he said. I will sell this for 123456789123456789 million billion trillion dollars.
My fear was hairthlessquipadoliciousphobioa (fear of beards) but people don't believe me what so ever.
I told them that this ghost is one of a kind called a lumbagain ghost who makes people dull and boring.Shockingly he only gets children but when it gets mad he could get teachers and only comes to schools.
My fear was Hairthlessquipadoliciousphobioa (fear of beards) but people don't believe me what so ever.
Dulbodogfragonaffe is very big animal with the head of a duck and the mane of a lion. The neck of a giraffe and the body of a horse. The wings of a bee and the front legs of a dog. The back legs of a from and the tail of a dragon. The spikes on its back of a hedgehog and the ears of a rabbit. All over it is an orangey-pinky coloured.

Reasuringly, text speak was not used as much as might have been feared. Most uses of, say, 'blackberry' denoted a fruit, although most uses of the word 'text' referred to phone use. New slang words have emerged from the submissions, including yolo (you only live once) and rofi (roll on the floor laughing).
The analysis shows that we tend to become more humdrum about our lives as we grow up. Among the top five two-noun words for kids were "time machine", "space ship", and "tree house". By the time people reach adulthood, these words have been replaced by the more mundane, functional terms like "car park" and "kitchen sink", with the missing link that unites generations being ice cream, which reaches the top five in the OUP data bases both kids and adults! 
Gender differences  showed a bit.Girls wrote more about pop stars More boys wrote about sport and used words like 'gun', 'sword' and 'battle'. . Apparently a rule was introduced to prevent boys killing off every single character.
But what I loved to learn is that the stories were imaginative, varied and full of passion for getting things down on paper. The sheer scale of the entries is heartening, and I do commend Radio 2 for getting this so right; kids really wanted to take part. 
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