I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline last week when I noticed a word that rang a dim bell: verbate.
I grasped that it had the sense of verbatim – “word for word” – but the truncated form seemed new. When I dug into it, I realized I’d tweeted about it myself more than a year ago.
When I tweeted about verbate this week, Caldwell, a reporter for NBC, responded: “We use it in broadcast journalism, and yes, a version of verbatim.” She added: “I think it’s a great word and probably overuse it.”
Well, she isn’t alone: verbate – which I’m guessing is pronounced ver-BATE, to reveal its origins in verbatim – has been showing up frequently in broadcast journalists’ Twitter feeds for the last couple of years, mostly as a noun, as Caldwell used it.
This is a verbate of what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said after Las Vegas when asked abt gun control regulation; "Today is a day for consoling" pic.twitter.com/RBErjRzuc3— Alana Abramson (@aabramson) November 1, 2017
Abramson is currently a reporter for Time and Fortune, but she may have picked up verbate from her previously employer, the broadcast network ABC.
Verbate of COMEY to Collins on asking for leak to prompt special counsel appointment pic.twitter.com/y9eDrWR2Ih— Rebekah Metzler (@rebekahmetzler) June 8, 2017
Metzler is CNN’s White House editor.
Sometimes a verbate isn’t even verbatim.
McCabe to Rubio just now (rough verbate): "Simply put, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing"— John Flowers (@MrJohnFlowers) May 11, 2017
“Rough verbate.” Flowers is a producer at MSNBC.
This 2015 tweet, from NBC News editor Bradd Jaffy, is the earliest usage I’ve found of journalistic verbate (but keep reading for an earlier, brand-name Verbate):
Just watched a feed of the Jeb "stuff happens" remark. Verbate: pic.twitter.com/rempF9HJz2— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) October 2, 2015
Verbatim entered English in the late 15th century as an adverb (“I shall give you my Cousin’s Letter verbatim”), and by 1737 was documented as an adjective (“verbatim reports”). By 1898 it was also being used as a noun meaning “a full, word-for-word report of a speech” – a transcript. The OED’s earliest citation is from the New York Daily News: “Crisp writer wanted, who can also do a verbatim.” I never heard “a verbatim” in my own journalism career, but it must have been lurking in the media’s collective unconscious, ready for its new, even crisper reincarnation as verbate.
(At some time in the late 20th or early 21st century, the noun form of verbatim was pluralized and took on the special sense of “transcripts of survey responses.” I first heard it about five years ago from a client who offered to send me “customer verbatims” for my name-development research. This sense of verbatims is also used in French and Spanish.)
The latest incarnation of verbate is a verb.*
Which is why we coined the phrase "verbate the SOT, please."— Cory Johnson (@CoryTV) February 24, 2017
Johnson is an anchor for Bloomberg radio and TV. SOT is an initialism for “sound on tape.”
Puck Drunk Love, a hockey blog, used verbal verbate in January 2017 to mean, roughly, “transcribe”:
For example, if we at Puck Drunk Love assigned somebody to verbate everything that Mike Milbury said during pre-game, intermission, and post-game shows on television, we could find something to write about every week in this column.
I’ve also seen an occasional usage of verbate (v.) by non-journalists attempting a fancy alternative to “communicate.”
"Though I may not be able to verbate my life story my leaves tell tales of wonders you won't… https://t.co/ueMYIXhxvY— Shannan Yates (@shae389) August 1, 2016
Clipping a word like verbatim probably came naturally to journalists, whose jargon includes many truncations: op-ed (opposite the editorial page), obit (obituary), folo (a follow-up story), buro (bureau), graf (paragraph), forn (foreign), and others. In general communication, too, we English-speakers like our snappy shortenings: fave, mayo, delish. This trend is hardly new; as I observed in a 2012 blog post, the Gershwins used a bunch of slangy truncations in their 1927 lyric for “‘SWonderful.”
And that brand-name Verbate? The company was founded in 2012, has offices in Sydney and London, sells a video-survey tool, and is currently hiring a “Growth Hacker” and a “Programming Genius.” Its staff already includes a Head Honcho, a Digital Wordsmith, and a Sherpa of the Things.
* It was already a verb in Italian: the informal second-personal plural form of verbare. (Added: JUST KIDDING.)
Verbare (v.) = to make into a verb [Italian]— Casual Conjugation (@CasualConjugate) July 2, 2017