prompt, n. = 'an intellectual or emotional stimulus to artistic creation; inspiration'

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 28 15:36:22 UTC 2011

Nothing in OED covers this, "prompt," n. 2, def. 2a covers only sensory
stimuli that elicit some behavior from the unconscious.

1999 Harry Ricketts _Rudyard Kipling: A Life_  (rpt. N.Y.: Carroll & Graf,
2001) 275: The prompt for the poem was a letter in early December from

2004 Francis O'Gorman _Victorian Poetry: An Annotated Anthology_ (Malden,
Mass.: Blackwell, 2004) 166: Tennyson’s prompt for the poem was a report in
the Times…recounting what rapidly became known as one of the British Army’s
most infamous errors.

Frankly, I find this usage creepy because it suggests to me that Kipling and
Tennyson were reacting like chimps to a behavioral "cue." They couldn't help
themselves!  And, no, the authors are not sneering at either poet.  (Cf.
phrases like "what prompted his reaction.")


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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