WFT- verbatim

02 August 2009

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for July 27th was verbatim. This is their definition:

in the exact words : word for word

This was the additional information they provided on the word:

Latin has a phrase for "exactly as written": "verbatim ac litteratim," which literally means "word for word and letter for letter." Like the "verbatim" in that Latin phrase, the English "verbatim" means "word for word." As you may have noticed, there's a "verb" in "verbatim" — and that's no mere coincidence. Both "verb" and "verbatim" are derived from the Latin word for "word," which is "verbum." Other common English words that share this root include "adverb," "proverb," and "verbose." Even the word "word" itself is related. "Verbatim" can also be an adjective meaning "being in or following the exact words" (as in "a verbatim report") and a rarer noun referring to an account, translation, or report that follows the original word for word.

An interesting anecdote came to mind when I saw this word.

Some friends went to Israel on a mission trip to visit the Holy Land and to evangelize. While they were there they attempted to teach a group of a dozen Hebrew youths the game of "telephone". There was a bit of confusion about the game at first: the children did not understand the point. When they began playing the game an amazing thing happened. The exact phrase that started the game was given at the end. The missionary friends were startled and played another round with the same results. What they experienced was one distinction between Hebraic eastern culture and American western culture. In Hebraic culture it is considered honorable to quote someone exactly. As a result, children are usually trained to quote others with an exacting precision unimaginable to most Americans. This is part of the cultural heritage of the Hebrew people. When unbelievers claim that Scripture was transmitted by word of mouth for centuries before it was written down and had to have been corrupted during that time...I share two things with them:

  1. Exodus 24:3-4 and Deuteronomy 31:9 which make the point that Moshe wrote down the words of Scripture.
  2. This anecdote that, for millennia, exact repetition has been a hallmark of Hebrew culture and society not only in speaking but in writing as well.

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