Prompt vs. ask?

Subject: Prompt vs. ask?
From: "Geoff Hart" <Geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 09:00:48 -0400

Jim Cort wondered <<Have you ever used "prompt" as a
synonym for "ask"? Like so: "A "yes" answer allows the
system to find any new or invalid wuddleblups and prompt
the user whether the new wuddleblups should be added and
the invalid ones deleted.">>

I'd make the following distinction: if you _ask_ someone, you
are formally posing a question or making a suggestion and
requesting an answer or action; if you prompt someone,
you're reminding them or encouraging them to do something
they already know but may have forgotten to do (which may
include providing an answer, but doesn't necessarily).
Although it's tempting to use "prompt" as a verb form of the
noun "prompt" (e.g., the data- and command-entry line in
DOS), I don't believe that this usage is sufficiently broad for
the two words to be interchangeable.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all those sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I
suspect that it is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence." George Miller, "The Magical Number Seven" (1956)

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