For three years running, BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show host Chris Evans has been on the hunt for talented young storytellers as part of his annual 500 WORDS competition.
As the name would suggest, children are asked to submit an original 500 word story, on anything they like. A shortlist is then painstakingly put together, before celebrity guests choose their six favourites from two age groups.
This year, Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond and award-winning novelist and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce judged alongside leading children’s authors Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Charlie Higson and Malorie Blackman.
The six winners will be announced live at the Hay Festival, where they’ll each get to hear their story brought to life by a famous narrator during one of Chris’s Breakfast Shows.
Chris Evans said “I was staggered to find out we’d received over 90,000 entries for this year’s 500 WORDS competition. Some of these super storytellers are even inventing new words. Inspiration or what?”
Talking of words, those clever guys at Oxford University Press took the 90,000 entries (a total of four million words) to reveal a whole host of fascinating facts that uncover exactly how children use the English language.
We’ve rustled up our favourite finds…
Cinderella is the most mentioned leading lady. Lovely Cinders is actually mentioned more times than any other real celebrity. Well, she has got glass slippers, a magic dress, a dog that turns into a horse, a pumpkin that turns into a carriage… need we go on? Cinders totally rocks it.
James Bond is the most popular fictional character. His name is mentioned a whopping 1,000 times and the word ‘spy’ is even more popular. Those clever kids know that 007 is taken, so all sorts of variations – from 001 to 009 – pop up.
Top Gear tops the list of TV shows – with Tracey Beaker, Doctor Who, Eastenders and Britain’s Got Talent chomping at its heels. Who knew kids liked listening to middle-aged men in double denim talk about fast cars so much? (Or maybe they were just smart enough to remember that Richard Hammond is on the judging panel).
Ferrari is the top car mentioned, though – so clearly the young authors are paying some attention to Top Gear. These kids don’t want their characters chugging along in a banged up rust bucket. It’s fast cars they need!
‘Gangnam’ is the most popular new word to make it into the list. Psy himself comes in at 22 on the overall list. Well, dancing around like a horse has so much charm. It’d be just wrong if he wasn’t there.
One Direction are the most popular music act and – you guessed it – Harry tops the list as the most popular band member. Justin Bieber on the other hand is on his way down, as ‘Belieber’ ranks low on the list of words used. He joins ‘totes’ and ‘amazeballs’, which have fallen out of favour with our youth.
Chris Evans tops the list as the most popular celebrity – those savvy kids! Can’t blame a kid for trying though, eh?
Usain Bolt ties with Wayne Rooney for top sportsman. Usain slightly edges forward in popularity for being the only male sports star to appear on the girls’ list of top ten celebrities.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the longest word used. Ironically (as you’re no doubt aware) it means a fear of long words.
Top made up words include ‘lumbagain’, meaning a ghost who makes people dull and boring and ‘dulbodogfragonaffe’ (a very big animal with the head of a duck and the mane of a lion, plus the neck of a giraffe and the body of a horse).
The six winners of this year’s 500 WORDS will be announced live on air on Friday 31 May at the Hay Festival.