Hashtag crowned ‘500 Words Children's Word of the Year’

Hash brown, no filter (there’s a joke for the other five people who have watched the brilliant Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix). Oxford University Press and the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show’s ‘500 Words’ competition has revealed its annual fascinating insight into British children’s use of language.

Following OUP’s analysis of the 120,421 entries for the short story competition, it emerged that Social media, the Ebola epidemic, and World War I are just some of the things that have influenced British children’s creativity and use of language over the last year.

Hashtag, and its symbol, #, (which, let’s be clear, is a hash. You tag your tweet/message with a hash – hence, hashtag. Let’s not have a whole generation growing up asking where the hashtag key is on the keyboard) is unmistakeably the ‘Children’s Word of the Year’, due to its significant shift in usage by children writing in this year’s competition. It appear that hashtag is evolving beyond social media into children’s vocabulary and extending into their creative writing.

But before we start to look like too grumpy and old (“Language should stay exactly as it was when we learnt it”) let’s move on to some other examples of how children are using it #dothekidsthinkwearecoolyet?.

Mobile technology and social media is another big theme, as is becoming famous online or an ‘internet sensation’. Many stories are concerned with posting videos online rather than watching them. Cyberbullying was another big topic.

Common real-life and fictional characters who commonly cropped up include Cristiano Ronaldo, Snow White, Dracula, Barbie, Batman, One Direction, The Hulk and Hitler. Hopefully those last two were part of a Hitler vs The Hulk short story.

If all of this change is too much for you, you can take comfort in some old gender stereotypes if you like. The analysis found girls writing enthusiastically of cupcakes, unicorns, marshmallows, and flowers, while for boys, it is all very much about burgers, space and farting.

So if you were thinking about writing the next best-selling boys’ novel, better start work on Fart Burgers in Space now.

Pie Corbett