gist, v. (1949)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Feb 3 06:51:42 UTC 2006

I recently wrote about a Language Log entry that mentions the use of
the term "gisting" in machine translation:

All the major dictionaries fail to give the gist of "gisting". But the
cites below show that the verb "gist" has long been used in a variety
of fields, including language instruction, literary studies, and
intelligence analysis.

* gist, v. 'summarize, abstract the gist of'

1949 Clifford E. Erickson _A Practical Handbook for School Counselors_
25  It will be helpful if the counselor will follow a regular practice
of "gisting" these data and summarizing the information which
indicates the ways in which indicates the ways in which the pupil
differs and the outstanding characteristics of the pupil.

1951 Hugh Kenner _The Poetry of Ezra Pound_ (1985) 6  Using a system
I'd picked up from Marshall, I gisted quotations onto little slips,
let their affinities prompt the piles they went into, and derived
chapters from the piles.

1971 Hugh Kenner _The Pound Era_ (1973) 447  Still, one would like to
know what "les principes des actions" may be, from the investigation
of which the wise man must start. Digesting, gisting, such actions as

1982 _Tax Treaties: Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations,
United States Senate_ 382  INR now briefs the Secretary on a daily
basis by selecting key incoming intelligence documents and gisting
critical passages for him, with comments as appropriate.

* gisting, vbl. n.

1971 Joyce L. House (title) A comparison of two methods of gisting.
National Bureau of Standards, Technical Research Note 236, Nov. 1971.
(Also on Worldcat, published by U.S. Army Behavior and Systems
Research Laboratory, 1972)

1984 _Foreign Policy_ 57 (Winter) 174  By telling policy-makers
something more than the facts -- what is known as "cable-gisting" --
analysis should help to uncover the implications of the issue
discussed for other problems, issues, and relationships.

1986 Vicky Galloway _Defining and Developing Proficiency_ 35  It is
tempting to think in terms of reader strategies such as skimming and
scanning, gisting, sorting, and so forth.
cited in: 1988 _Modern Language Journal_ 72.2 (Summer) 175/2

1987 _Hispania_ 70.4 (Dec.) 927/2, Gisting. Having students gist or
summarize the content is an excellent testing technique.

* gisted, ppl. a.

1987 _Advances in Applied Psycholinguistics, Vol. 1_ 163  Presumably,
transformations on ideas are made possible by representing text in
abstract and gisted forms.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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