Children’s tales reveal worries about plastic

Plastic has been named children’s word of the year following an analysis of the language they used when writing stories.

An annual study of thousands of short stories submitted to the 2018 BBC Radio 2 competition found the use of “plastic” had doubled in a year as children wrote about the threat to the planet of discarded bottles, bags and containers.

Oxford University Press, which conducted the analysis, said the findings demonstrated the huge impact on children made by the final episode of Blue Planet II when Sir David Attenborough delivered a rallying call to stop plastic pollution in the seas.

Plastic appeared 3,359 times in the 134,790 stories and 56 million words analysed. Children, aged between 5 and 13, also used the word in their story titles, including The Plastic ShoreThe Mermaid’s Plastic Mission and The Evil Mr Plastic.

Other words and names that were frequently used were ocean, Emmeline Pankhurst, Brexit, Korea, Grenfell Tower, unicorns, slime and the computer game Fortnite. Last year’s winner was Trump and in 2016 it was refugee.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: “Children have shown they are acutely aware of the impact plastic has on our environment and how it will affect their own future.”

Gaming words such as “console” and “noob” also increased, with younger boys, aged five to nine, engaging most with the vocabulary of gaming. There were also mentions of gaming as an addiction.

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