Prompt me now

I’ve been learning more Americanese.  For instance “prompt” is the word used here to mean “essay question.”  My students asked for a prompt and I had no idea what they meant.  Maybe some doughnuts?  That always prompts me.  But, no, couldn’t be, because there aren’t any doughnuts in this state – oh, yes, a few stale round things with icing on, but no doughnuts.  And I’ve been learning more things Californians don’t know.  The other day I happened to use the word “cellar” in a sentence, and a colleague exploded into an extended piece of mockery comparing me to Dorothy of Kansas.  Seriously, people from So Cal associate cellars with the Wizard of Oz.  It’s never crossed their minds that lots of real people actually have these things.  (They’re not allowed, because of the earthquakes.)  And then Z came home and told me he’d used the phrase “in the bush” and drawn blank looks.  You’d think they could figure that one out from context, but apparently not.  We are strangers in a strange land.  On a brighter note, though, and speaking of “in the bush” and strangers and all that, I’ve just read Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet.  What a fine novel.  Not all that well written, but not badly written either, and anyway who cares?  It does its job, which is all in the bush.  It reminds me that there might be piles of excellent children’s books that I don’t know about because they were published in the 1980s or after.


9 thoughts on “Prompt me now

  1. I don’t think it’s that, for Californians, cellars are alien things only existing in fiction but rather that “cellar” sounds British/Canadian/old-fashioned to American ears. We tend to use “basement.”

  2. When I was growing up, our underground floor was divided into a finished area, which we called the basement, and an unfinished area, which we called the cellar. But later I lived in a house where the underground part could not by any stretch of the imagination be called anything but a cellar — it was a dank, spidery, concrete bunker, entered by a door in the ground (not in the wall).

    Julie darling, Krispy Kreme’s do indeed fall beneath my standards, being a sort of interesting cross between doughnut and candy floss. But I’d still eat one if I could find it in this town.

  3. And similarly, I’m supposing there could be doughnuts which do not fall below your standard, but which you will not eat. There certainly are for me.

  4. My 4th grader has been coming home with practice sheets “writing to prompt”. I was as clueless as you were.

    She has been trained to write in three parts:
    1. rephrase the question
    2. make an argument
    3. summarize your point

    I cringed at her writing, but reminded myself that she has plenty of years to practice and improve. Besides, when I tried to help her, she told me to get lost.

    Did you know that all CA 4th graders (in public schools) were tested this week in “writing to prompt”? I think the standards suggest that 4th graders should be able to pull off a 3-part response. (They write responses now, not essays.)

    BTW, we call them basements here. A cellar is considered very la-di-da.

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