“Trump”, a word that has inspired sniggers in generations of British children, has provided inspiration for more than fart jokes in a nationwide children’s story writing competition. The beleaguered US president Donald Trump’s name emerged as the chief inspiration for stories of monsters, aliens and dodgy politicians written by children entering BBC Radio 2’s annual 500 Words award.
An analysis of entries for the competition, which was launched the week the new incumbent of the White House took office, found that mention of his name had increased by more than 800% compared with 2016. The young authors, aged five to 13, dreamed up more than 100 Trump-related words, from Trumplestiltskin to Boggle Trump.
The analysis of the 131,000 entries was conducted by the Oxford University Press, which found that as well as mentioning Trump in the context of the US elections and politics, he was also found in stories of space aliens and superheroes. The research found that political words were a significant area of growth, with “Brexit”, “fake news” and “article 50” also surfacing in schoolchildren’s stories.
According to the Financial Times, a dystopian future in which the US president limits all communication to 140-word characters or less was imagined by one 12-year-old boy. In a piece entitled Stories, the boy wrote: “Personal interactions were banned, along with newspapers and books. Nowadays you were only allowed to communicate through tweeting alternative facts.”
Trump is the latest “word of the year” to emerge from the competition, which was launched in 2011 by presenter Chris Evans. “Refugees” was the word of 2016 and “hashtag#” the word of 2015. As well as the political preoccupations of the nation’s children, 500 words also provides parents with a snapshot of their thinking about social media: this year “Instagram” overtook “Facebook” and “Snapchat”, though YouTube remains out in front.
Other trends noted in the analysis were “bottle flip” and “fidget spinner”, the three-legged spinning top that has become this summer’s playground essential. The competition is run in conjunction with librarians and schoolteachers, 5,000 of whom volunteer to read the entries before they are narrowed down to a 50-strong longlist judged by a panel that includes the Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon, the performer and children’s author Charlie Higson and Frank Cottrell Boyce. The winners will be announced on Friday.
Although the US president has inspired the latest use of “Trump” by a generation of schoolchildren, it is a word with long history, little of it flattering. Aside from its “informal use”, the word also describes a simple popular 16th-century English card game in which the aim was to take as much money off your opponents as possible. The word is widely used in many other card games and also appears as the name for a suit in the tarot deck. The children who entered the competition did not, however, only use the president’s surname in the newest sense, the organisers said: “Of course, with a word like ‘Trump’, our youngsters were not shy to use it for comic effect, referencing its more informal sense of passing wind.”