Wednesday, March 03, 2010

That word is popping up everywhere!

This evening I was reading The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White, to my son, and we came across the following passage, which made my son remark, "That word is popping up everywhere!":

"Well, cat is easy too," muttered the teacher. "Cat is easy because it is short. Can anyone think of a word that is longer than cat?"

"Catastrophe," said Charlie Nelson, who sat in the front row.

"Good!" said Mrs. Hammerbotham. "That's a good hard word. But does anyone know what it means? What is a catastrophe?"

"An earthquake," said one of the girls.

"Correct!" replied the teacher. "What else?"

"War is a catastrophe," said Charlie Nelson.

"Correct!" replied Mrs. Hammerbotham. "What else is?"

A very small, redheaded girl named Jennie raised her hand.

"Yes, Jennie? What is a catastrophe?"

In a very small, high voice, Jennie said, "When you get ready to go on a picnic with your father and mother and you make peanut-butter sandwiches and jelly rolls and put them in a thermos box with bananas and an apple and some raisin cookies and paper napkins and some bottles of pop and a few hard-boiled eggs and then you put the thermos box in your car and just as you are starting out it starts to rain and your parents say there is no point in having a picnic in the rain, that's a catastrophe."

"Very good, Jennie," said Mrs. Hammerbotham. "It isn't as bad as an earthquake, and it isn't as bad as war. But when a picnic gets called on account of rain, it is a catastrophe for a child, I guess..."

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