And the Winner of the Child-Author's Competition Is … Lego, Universal Pictures

It’s a marketer’s dream: Make your product so ubiquitous that it permeates the popular lexicon, even apart from its commercial identity. And if you can do it with kids? Epic.

The winners of a nationwide short-story contest for budding U.K. authors age 13 and younger will be announced Friday morning, May 30, live on the BBC’s Radio 2. But the commercial winners are already clear, thanks to an analysis of each of the more than 50 million words written by the nearly 120,000 children who entered this year’s competition. They are Lego, Universal Pictures, and Mojang, maker of the Minecraft game, to name a few.

Data on the language used in the stories, each of which is no longer than 500 words, is tabulated and analyzed by Oxford University Press, publishers of the Oxford Children’s Dictionaries. It’s looking for insights into the evolving use of language by kids, along with changing trends in children’s interests.

The word “lego” had the largest number of hits among trending commercial words in this year’s narratives (2,208 hits, compared with just 1,044 last year), and the second-biggest number of hits among all key words that were trending. There were more subtle signs that the privately held Danish toymaker’s film, The Lego Movie, had an even deeper impact on kids. “The increased popularity of the name Emmet (464 hits in 2014 compared with 12 hits in 2013) is obviously due to the film,” according to the report on this year’s trends.

Marvel Entertainment’s “Batman” also jumped in popularity, likely due to the inclusion of a Lego Batman in the film, the authors conclude. The top fictional character included in the kids’ stories last year was the U.K.’s own James Bond, but Superman and Batman topped the list this year, knocking agent 007 down to the No. 10 spot.

The report’s authors named ”minion” as the word of the year, thanks to Universal’s Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. Minion had the third-highest number of hits among words that trended this year. ”He called his minions to capture her and put her in the dungeon,” one 10-year-old girl wrote in her story, titled Spy School. The report’s authors said kids’ narratives were also rich with words associated with Mojang’s Minecraft game, including ordinary words such as “portal” and ”villager.”

The top consumer gadget mentioned by kids in their stories this year wasn’t even a contest: Microsoft’s Xbox game console (1,336 hits) was way ahead of the second-place gadget, Apple’s iPad (656 hits), with Sony’s PlayStation coming in a distant fourth.

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