Every year, Oxford University Press analyses thousands of entries to a short story competition – and the linguists and lexicographers have crowned Brexit the “children’s word of the year”.
They discovered that Brexit and our outgoing Prime Minister’s difficulties have had an impact on children’s writing – kids are trying to make a deal, help beleaguered Mrs May or simply cancel Brexit, in their stories.
The more than 100,000 stories entered for the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show competition also contain references to the “backstop” and “no deal” and an overall increase in political vocabulary and awareness.
Story titles include The Cat Who Solved Brexit, Aliens In Brexit and A Unicorn Called Brexit.
The word Brexit was used 418 times, compared to just 89 the previous year, while mentions of Mrs May went up from 118 to 287.
Oxford University Press director of publishing operations Helen Freeman said: “What is an extremely complex and difficult issue for some of the finest political minds has inspired children’s creativity and inventiveness in a really interesting and smart way.”
“In 2017 and 2018, Brexit was mostly referred to as a boring subject parents talked about, as something in the background,” added Freeman. “This year it is a very different picture – Brexit is front and centre of the action, with children swooping in to help Theresa May in a proactive, empowered and fun way.”
The stories also betrayed a fascination with sloths, which appeared a record 1,100 times this year.
Unicorns are still most the popular real or fantasy animal, with 15,000 mentions, while digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri are also frequent characters.
There was also an increase in the use of words like veggie and vegan, and another rise in mentions of plastic, which was the 2018 word of the year.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was the top mentioned real person, followed by Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler and Harry Kane.
The 500 Words contest, for children aged five to 13, was created by former Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans in 2011 and has had over 900,000 entries.
This year’s competition, hosted by Zoe Ball’s Breakfast Show with Oxford University Press, received 112,986 entries.