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Each year Oxford Dictionaries for Children team up with BBC Radio 2's 500 WORDS—a nationwide competition to find talented young writers. After analysing 134,790 short stories submitted since January, we have announced ‘plastic’ as Children’s Word of the year 2018.
Plastic was chosen because of a significant increase in use (more than 100 per cent since the 2017 competition), the awareness and passion children demonstrated for environmental issues, and the creative solutions they came up with in their stories. They use ‘plastic’ in an emotive way conveying their understanding of the damage pollution is causing to marine life, and showing the impact of David Attenborough's Blue Planet II.
Plastic featured in imaginative story titles such as The Plastic Shore, The Mermaid’s Plastic Mission, and The Evil Mr Plastic, while powerful imagery featured across the board:
‘An empty plastic bottle they had carelessly discarded bobbed up and down at the water's edge. The pull of the tide gradually lured it further and further out to sea with each rise and swell of the waves. Yet another unwelcome plastic alien invader in the beautiful big blue sea that one less whale now calls home.’ The Big Blue, by an entrant aged 10.
‘Sea animals are dying because of you and your plastic! Nets get caught around dolphins' necks. Plastic used for bottles gets tangled around sea turtle shells...’ Save The Planet, from another entrant aged 7.
Vineeta Gupta, our Head of Children’s Dictionaries, says: ‘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.’
BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans adds: ‘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. The OUP’s 500 Words analysis is always fascinating and so insightful about the creative ways children use language.’