Last night, my son came across the following question while doing his homework:

He acquired a lot of debts at.......
a. play
b. prose
c. novel
d. poem

He asked me about the meaning of the question. Unfortunately, l couldn't answer him. I looked up all the entries in the question in a number of dictionaries, but it seems that the meaning is vague. I think the whole question doesn't make sense, does it?

  • Yes, this question makes sense. What exactly is vague for you? – Drossel Oct 17 '20 at 6:42
  • What is vague to me is the connection in meaning between (acquired ...debts ) and the rest of the sentence. – Mido Mido Oct 17 '20 at 6:49
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    The meaning is that he made a lot of debts and owns a lot of money now because he was involved in or was doing something (a, b,c or d). – Drossel Oct 17 '20 at 6:56
  • This type of made-up sentence is probably inappropriate for a child. – Cascabel Oct 17 '20 at 14:45

I think whoever made the test question is being a little cute. All four answers are types of the written word. But one doesn't usually associate writing with acquiring debts. Unless the writing you are doing is keeping score in a poker game at which you are at play--and losing, or filling out the racing form at the track where you are at play--and losing.

The question is a little awkward, but if it was written by your son's teacher, it's a good sign. He or she is trying to make the test interesting and putting in a little extra effort for the kids just because.

Teacher gets an apple.

  • I'm wondering if the teacher used "acquired" in the sense of "had" here. – Mido Mido Oct 17 '20 at 6:59
  • I think you are being very kind to the teacher. Such reasoning is too abstruse and speculative to be fitted to a child. – Anton Oct 17 '20 at 8:41
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    I think it is punning on two senses of the word play, and nothing to do with writing. The debts are presumably gambling debts from playing cards, but the multiple-choice answers interpret play in the sense of a literary work. – Kate Bunting Oct 17 '20 at 8:50
  • @Kate Bunting: As a native speaker, how can you edit the question to sound more reasonable for the reader and easier enough for the child? – Mido Mido Oct 17 '20 at 16:41
  • It's difficult, because I don't know what aspect of English the question was intended to test. The use of play to mean gambling on card games seems rather old-fashioned to me. – Kate Bunting Oct 17 '20 at 16:58

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