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.”
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