global English Live English

“Say the Word” competition: we’ve got a winner!

Beatles competition: Say the WordA big thank you to everyone who took part in our “Say the Word” competition.

The brief was to find any words in Beatles songs which are not ‘red words’ in the Macmillan Dictionary. And this isn’t easy. We mentioned in an earlier post that the Beatles’ lyrics are mostly made up of basic, high-frequency English words. As we often point out, Macmillan’s 7500 red words – the core vocabulary of English – provide most of the vocabulary you need in order to understand just about any kind of text. On average, something like 93% of the words you’ll come across in a novel, newspaper, or academic textbook belong to the 7500 most frequent English words. This means that spotting the ‘black’ (or low-frequency) words in any text is by no means straightforward – and it gets a lot more difficult when we’re talking about pop songs. Most of the Beatles’ early songs have very simple lyrics, and even on the later Abbey Road album, over 91% of the words belong to the top 2000 in frequency terms (which would make them 3-star red words in the Macmillan Dictionary).

So we’re enormously impressed by all the entries in our competition. Finding even 20 ‘black words’ in the Beatles catalogue would be quite an achievement. But many of you did far better than that, and the winning entry lists well over 200! So well done to everyone who’s entered!

Here are the results:

The winner of the competition is …  Alejandro Pinto-Núñez with more than 220 correct entries!

Great work, Alejandro! You have won £30 in vouchers for the Macmillan eBookstore.

There were several entries that were also impressive and deserve a mention:

Arianna Basaric is in second place, with more than 180 correct entries. Nelson Cabral, Drina Di Benedetto and Kim Alison Wegener also submitted a long list of around 100 black words – well done to you all!

Email this Post Email this Post


About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary


  • Thanks a lot for the kind words and the competition. It was both challenging and fun. I like The Beatles, so I really enjoyed it. To all of you, warm greetings from Chile!

  • Cheers Alejandro!!! I also enjoyed the competition and for the same reasons, I guess.
    Cheers again from Montevideo!!!

  • Congrats Alejandro, you must be a Beatles expert by now! Glad to see that English is alive and well in Chile 😀

Leave a Comment