Queen is king of the words for our young storytellers

thisisoxfordshire: Eight-year-old Charlotte Redman gets stuck in to a book of fairy tales. Pictures: OX67496 Mark Hemsworth Buy this photo Eight-year-old Charlotte Redman gets stuck in to a book of fairy tales. Pictures: OX67496 Mark Hemsworth

‘SELFIE’ may be one of the world’s newest words, but Oxford’s youngsters seem to be more interested in royalty than self-portraits.

‘Queen’ was the word used the most by Oxford children who took part in a national storywriting competition, appearing 277 times.

Thousands of short stories from children under the age of 13 were analysed by Oxford University Press (OUP) to find the most popular words.

They worked their way through the 50 million words used across 118,632 entries in the BBC Radio 2 500 Words competition to find this year’s most popular.

Senior commissioning editor for children’s dictionaries at Oxford University Press, Sam Armstrong, said: “Queen was used 277 times, which is about 15 per cent more than the rest of the country.

“It’s mostly used in a fairy tale context, in association with evil and wicked, but we had some historical figures like Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth cropping up.”

She said that Oxford’s budding authors wrote more fairy tales than children anywhere else in the country.

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Sam Armstrong

Ms Armstrong added: “We have got lots of fairy tale stories and lots of the words in the top ten – like queen, egg, treasure and duck – have associations with those traditional tales.

“Golden eggs and treasure chests are common elements in those stories.

“They have a strong link with children when they sit down to write because they are influenced by what they read and see.”

Nationally, the word ‘minion’ has come top of the charts – with a 250 per cent increase in popularity since last year – attributed to the popularity of the film Despicable Me.

Some of the country’s most popular words may appear in Didcot pupil Laura Bennie’s story A Murder in the Observatory. Laura – in the age 10 to 13 category – has made it through to the final 50 in the competition, and she will find out how she fared tomorrow when the winners are announced live on Chris Evans’s breakfast show on BBC Radio 2.

The 12-year-old said of her submission: “It’s a mystery story where a detective goes to solve the murder of a lord in his mansion.

“I’ve always liked mystery stories. I’m not really a girly-girl; I don’t like fairytales that much.”

The Didcot Girls’ School pupil added: “I’m really pleased it’s in the top 50, but I’m pretty nervous about finding out the results on Friday.”

Eight-year-old Charlotte Redman is one of many children who loves fairy tales. She said: “They make you have a better imagination. My favourite is Snow White because the evil queen puts her in the forest and then she finds the dwarves.”

Vineeta Gupta, head of children’s dictionaries at OUP, said: “It is fascinating to see children’s vocabulary has been enriched by games and blockbuster films.

“These are not everyday words, yet children have understood their meanings, adopted them, and are using them in their own new and creative contexts.”

Oxford University Professor of Experimental Psychology Kate Nation said: “Concerns have been voiced that the digital age is having a negative impact on children’s imaginations. These stories show that children’s imaginations are very much alive and that they use a variety of influences in creative ways.”

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