Children express overwhelming sadness at loss of Queen but remain hopeful about year ahead
Queen is the Children’s Word of the Year for 2022 according to research by Oxford University Press (OUP). Almost half of children surveyed chose Queen (46 per cent) as their word of the year, followed by over a third selecting happy (36 per cent) and more than one in ten choosing chaos (14 per cent).
When asked why they chose Queen, many children cited sadness and loss as well as feelings of pride in relation to the late monarch. Girls were more likely than boys to relate to the late Queen, with 52 per cent of girls choosing Queen as their number one word as opposed to 39 per cent of boys. Analysis of the Oxford Children’s Corpus, the largest children’s English language database in the world containing over half a billion words, revealed Queen Elizabeth was regularly in the top-ten list of famous people whom children wrote about over the years.
Despite sadness at the monarch’s death, almost half of children (48 per cent) felt hopeful and over a quarter (29 per cent) felt excited about the year ahead, although more than one in ten (14 per cent) stated they felt worried. Other findings revealed cool to be the top slang word chosen by 40 per cent of children, ahead of sick/sic (28 per cent) and slay (15 per cent).
Helen Freeman, Director of Oxford Children’s, said: “It comes as no surprise that Queen is Children’s Word of the Year for 2022. This not only reflects Her Majesty’s 70 years of incredible service, but over the past decade our research consistently reveals how attuned children are to the news and the impact current affairs have on their language. It’s vital we continue to invest in language development and ensure children have access to a wide range of vocabulary in order to feel equipped to process and discuss the news.”
Miranda McKearney OBE, founder of EmpathyLab, said: “The choice of Queen highlights how affected children were by the emotions and sense of community and connection around the Jubilee and the Queen’s death. We always encourage teachers and parents not to shy away from discussing the news and the empathy issues of the day. Schools report that making brave book choices, and focusing on honest, empathetic talk really opens-up a new, deeper relationship, between teacher and pupil, and among children themselves.”
Over 4,000 children aged 6-14 across the country were asked for their suggested word of 2022 and based on the most common responses and themes in their answers, three words – Queen, happy and chaos – were shortlisted. The three words were then put to vote by a further 1,000 children to decide their overall word of 2022.
For over a decade, experts and academic researchers in the Children’s Language department have analysed the evolution of children’s language and how it is used to reflect their emotions and experiences. In response to the latest findings, the Children’s Language department at OUP have published the Oxford Children’s Word of the Year 2022 report which can be read here.