Wist, Witty, Wot

wist, wit'-i, wot: The verb "to wit" in the King James Version is interchangeable with "to know," and is conjugated with a present "wot," and a past "wist." This inflection is derived from more complicated forms in the older English, and in post-Elizabethan times has become quite obsolete. (But compare the roots in "wisdom," "witness.") "Wit," then, is simply "knowledge," and "witty" is "having knowledge," although the noun and the adjective have become narrowly specialized in modern English (compare the similar evolution of "knowing," in its use as an adjective). Even in Elizabethan English, however, the indicative of "to wit" was becoming displaced by "know," and "wot" and "wist" together occur only 24 times in the King James Version (not at all in Apocrypha). the English Revised Version has retained all the New Testament examples, but in the Old Testament has altered about half the occurrences to "know," but has followed no discoverable rule in so doing ("wot" retained only in Jos 2:5). the American Standard Revised Version has changed to "know" throughout (Old Testament and New Testament). The infinitive "to wit" is still in use (chiefly in legal formulas) before an apposition, and the King James Version has introduced it rather frequently to clarify a construction (Jos 17:1; 1Ki 2:32, etc.), and the Revised Version (British and American) has usually retained it (omitted in Jos 17:1; 2Ch 4:12). In the other uses of this inf. (Ge 24:21; Ex 2:4) it is replaced by "to know," while the very obsolete expression in 2Co 8:1, the King James Version "We do you to wit" (i.e. "We cause you to know"; see Do), has become in the Revised Version (British and American) "We make known unto you."

The noun "wit" is found in Ps 107:27, "at their wits' (the King James Version "wit's") end," for chokhmah, "wisdom," "technical skill"; compare the Revised Version margin "All their wisdom is swallowed up." The meaning is "their skilled seamanship cannot cope with the danger" (the phrase is very commonly misapplied). "Wit" occurs also 1 Esdras 4:26 (dianoia, "mind"); 2 Esdras 5:9 (sensus, here "intelligence"); Sirach 31:20 (psuche, "soul," with the force of "reason").

Witty is found in the King James Version, the Revised Version margin Pr 8:12, "witty inventions" (mezimmah, "discretion" (so the Revised Version (British and American)); if "and" is not read in this verse, translate "discrete knowledge"). In Judith 11:23 occurs "witty in thy words" (agathos, "good," here probably = "thou hast spoken sound sense"). The Wisdom of Solomon 8:19 the King James Version has "a witty child," the Revised Version (British and American) "a child of parts," margin "goodly" (euphues, "well grown," "of a good disposition," "clever"). "Wittingly" occurs in Ge 48:14 (sakhal, "act intelligently").

Burton Scott Easton

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