Scopist

By Maeve Maddox

I received an email from a reader who is a scopist. The reader suspected that the title might be unfamiliar to me and kindly explained it:

scopist/notereader for a court reporter.

I was grateful because I’d never heard the word scopist before.

Naturally I wanted to know more, so I looked the word up in the OED; it wasn’t there. Then I looked in Merriam-Webster Unabridged, but it wasn’t there either. Since it is a court-related occupation, I looked it up in a legal glossary and on a legal job site. Still nothing. Finally, a general Web search brought me to a definition in Wikipedia:

A scopist edits the transcripts of official proceedings, created by court reporters.

The word is recorded in the Ngram Viewer database, so I don’t understand why it isn’t in the OED; since the 1980s the word has been climbing in frequency of use.

My only acquaintance with court transcripts is from my research into the life and career of Joan of Arc. The scribes at Joan’s trial copied down the proceedings, proofed them for omissions and errors, and then put the transcript in its final form. In Joan’s case the transcripts were falsified afterwards, but that was in the bad old Middle Ages.

Apparently today’s court reporters aren’t expected to do the entire job themselves, probably because the courts are busier, and reporters don’t have time to correct their own work.

More from Wikipedia:

Scopists receive the rough copies of transcripts [typed by the court reporters], check the transcript for missing words or mistakes, edit grammar and punctuation, ensure that proper names and technical or scientific terms are spelled correctly, and format the transcript properly before delivering the transcript back to the court reporter.

According to the job description,

Scopists need excellent grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and research skills, as well as good knowledge of legal terminology, medical terminology, and transcript production. They are typically voracious readers, gatherers of eclectic knowledge, and adept users of technology.

The job of scopist sounds like a perfect fit for a language lover.

As for the question asked by the scopist who introduced me to the word, see “Hyphenating Prefixes.”

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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15 Responses to “Scopist”

  • D.A.W.

    Looking at it from a humorous point-of-view, LOL, a “scopist” sounds like kind of a fanatic about the noted “Scopes Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee.

    After all, we have
    “creationists”, “evolutionists”, “conspiracy theorists”, “pseudoscientists”, “mentalists”, “UFOlogists”, “Scientologists”, “Satanists”, “Stalinists”,
    “monarchists”, “Flat Earthers”, and “John Birchers”.
    It is no joke that there are still some Stalinists in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine.
    D.A.W.

  • Kathleen Baldwin

    Interesting post, as are all of your posts. I read it every day! Thanks!
    Do you know if any of the original non-doctored proceedings survived from Joan of Arc’s trial?

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    I agree it sounds like a dream job for somebody who loves language and proofing/editing. Also probably to people keen to learn about court proceedings first hand. I had never heard the term either.

  • Roberta B.

    Very interesting! I also have never heard that term. So, now I think might I know which reader/commenter(?) you may be describing – someone who is bright, detail-oriented, and well-read, but needs some significant entertainment value and diversion from a tedious job! I’m not talking about myself, of course, and it wouldn’t be another verbose and tedious commenter. He’s still being obstinate. However, the more we know about someone’s frame of reference, the more we’ll understand his motives.

  • D.A.W.

    Could it be that a “scopist” is someone who looks at things (e.g. documents and records) through a microscope? Hence, getting all of the details right?

    I am definitely a “telescopist” because I like looking at the “big picture” of things, and that is why I am a systems engineer. Sometimes I have told my supervisors, “Let’s look at the Big Picture about this.” I think that it is a great way to solve problems. I have done the same with my students.

    At work and at other places, I see connections between things that are not apparent to most other people – and lots of other people thing that I ramble. Oh well, when I say something like “What the Ancient Greeks thought about that is clearly connected to the situation in British Columbia now,” I can usually prove it.

    One time at work, they asked me a question in systems engineering, I thought about it for five minutes and I answered the question correctly. Then when they said that they wanted the reasoning written down, I told them that this would take four days and the help of a secretary to type it all up. (That was back in the years before easy-to-use word processors.)

    Nobody complained about my results, including the customer, so they must have all been satisfied.

  • venqax

    Microscopist is a word. Pronounced my-CROS-kop-ist, BTW.

  • venqax

    The job of scopist sounds like a perfect fit for a language lover.
    I get what you’re saying, but I wonder. Court reporting is the ultimate consumer of [sic]-ness. You can correct spelling and formatting errors, but for the most part grammatical mistakes and misuse of words in testimony has to be left as-is. It might drive me over the hedge (and at my trial they’d have to write it that way!).

    Remember Rachel “Dee Dee” Jeantel, the witness in the infamous Zimmerman trial? Imagine having to record and “scope” that!

  • D.A.W.

    Once again, Venqax, you misunderstood my figurative use of the language, and you plunged forward literal mindedly.

    Also, I was seeking for the roots of “scopist”, which is not included in most dictionaries, so dictionaries are not any help.

  • venqax

    @DAW: You need to come to a realization of who has a problem: It’s not Everyone Else.
    Could it be that a “scopist” is someone who looks at things (e.g. documents and records) through a microscope?
    There is nothing figurative about that statement. It is a very literal question that in turn clearly implies the questioner (that would be you) does not know the word microscopist. IOW, you don’t know the word microscopist. That’s no big deal.

  • Barbie Ann

    It is actually called a Note-reader Scopist, and I tried taking a distance learning course of this title several years ago. Although I never completed the course, I still have my materials and often think about trying my hand at it again. I must admit, having a background in medicine, made the medical part of the course easy for me. However, at the time that I was taking this course, I didn’t have any experience with the legal part of the course, which made this part of the course more challenging, but fortunately as a creative thinker, I am always willing to rise to overcome any new challenges. Today, I have more experience with the legal realm, because of normal life situations, and would be more comfortable taking the course again. Unfortunately the distance school that I was taking the course at doesn’t exist anymore. So, who knows? My research skills have become excellent over the many years that I have been coming online, so I will probably look into it again very soon. Right now my focus is on Freelance writing, however, it’s always a good idea to have a plan B or another way to put it is something to fall back on. Peace and love!

  • D.A.W.

    Venqax, once again you would rather argue about things than to learn about anything at all.

    Also, you don’t want to contribute anything positive. I asked about the roots of the word “scopist”, but rather than finding out, you went “blah, blah, blah”.

    A question has been put to you, so why don’t you answer it rather than “blah, blah, blah”?

  • D.A.W.

    My figurarative word was “telescopist”, which isn’t a word at all, but this flew right under your nose.

  • Maeve

    Kathleen Baldwin,
    Joan’s trial transcripts. Yes, that’s how we know they were doctored. The procedure was that the scribes recorded the proceedings in French and then put them into Latin for the official record. Pierre Cauchon, the man running the trial, tweaked the Latin version to suit his aims. One of the scribes, aware of what was going on, saved his French notes, which eventually came to light.

  • venqax

    That’s not what figurative means. You are looking for “fictive”. And your fiction re telescopist was not related to your question– you did ask a question– re scopist and microscopes. My positive contribution was teaching you the word microscopist, with the bonus of pronunciation guidance. You’re welcome!

    BTW, the expression is, “flew right over your head”. Something is sitting, “right under your nose”. As we said before, the Nile’s not the only Queen of Egypt.

  • Rich Wheeler

    According to Scopists.com:

    “Scoping, performed by scopists, is called that because, in the days when the court reporting profession became computerized, their services were performed on large (desk size) minicomputers which had little phosphorescent-green video screens which would show about 80 characters across but just a few lines at a time. These screens looked a lot like oscilloscopes, and they felt like you were reading by periscope!”

    They call their discipline scopistry.

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