Roald Dahl Day 2019: 13 Words of Bravery

13 Words of Bravery

13th September marks Roald Dahl Day, and, to celebrate, Oxford University Press has released its 13 Words of Bravery. These 13 words reflect the ways children today write about bravery and the context in which they use these words to feel empowered in difficult situations. Read on to find out more or download the full report here.

The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary tells us that the name Matilda means ‘mighty in battle’. And small but mighty Matilda certainly lives up to her name as she unleashes the power of words to speak up, to fight against injustice and to stand up to the formidable Miss Trunchbull.

Roald Dahl encourages his readers to be equally bold with language, gobblefunking with words and creating sparky synonyms and ringbelling rhymes.

And what better way to start being brave with words than looking at the word brave itself?

The word wizards at Oxford University Press have analysed over 900,000 pieces of children’s writing using their Oxford Children’s Corpus—the largest children’s language database in English containing the stories submitted to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition—to find the words that children most associate with being brave.

Below are 13 words from Oxford Children’s Dictionaries & Thesauruses which reflect the different ways in which children today write about bravery:
13 Words of Bravery
Oxford Children’s Corpus: 13 Words of Bravery
Our full 13 Words of Bravery report also looks at the contexts in which children use these words to feel empowered in difficult situations. Many of these contexts are also used in Roald Dahl’s writing and even some of the same expressions are used to talk about bravery, reinforcing just how relevant his stories are to children today.

For example:

Speaking up/standing up

Suddenly I felt a bolt of anger shoot through me. I spoke up.  ‘I am different to everyone here,’ I said. ‘I know that, but I should not be put down a level because of that. I am frowned upon and mocked. I am stared at. Nobody should be treated the way I am.

(My name is Paula, girl 11, 500 Words 2019)

Another extremely brave little boy in the front row spoke up and said, ‘But surely you were a small person once, Miss Trunchbull, weren’t you?’ ‘I was never a small person’, she snapped.

(Matilda, Roald Dahl)

Trying to sound brave

Suddenly, the queen ant scuttled up to her and hissed. ‘We don’t accept humans in our land. You are trespassing and if you don’t get out, my children will punish you.’ Trying to sound brave, Ivy said, ‘Give me back my sister!

(Statues, girl 11, 500 Words 2019)

‘Nigel Hicks what?’ the Trunchbull bellowed. She bellowed so loud she nearly blew the little chap out of the window. ‘That’s it’, Nigel said.  ‘Unless you want my middle names as well’. He was a brave little fellow and one could see that he was trying not to be scared by the Gorgon who towered above him.

(Matilda, Roald Dahl)

Inspired by the bravery of a hero/heroine

By now she had realised that just like her hero Tutankhamun she was brave and strong after all!

(The Night of the Mummy, boy 7, 500 Words 2019)

Matilda stared at her. What a marvellously brave thing Miss Honey had done. Suddenly she was a heroine in Matilda’s eyes.

(Matilda, Roald Dahl)

Discover more fascinating insights in our full Roald Dahl Day 2019 13 Words of Bravery report.

More from Oxford:

Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, Oxford Roald Dahl Thesaurus and Roald Dahl's Rotsome and Repulsant Words.
Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, Oxford Roald Dahl Thesaurus and Roald Dahl’s Rotsome & Repulsant Words