Can you think of any connection between an author and a bank teller? If you think in English, you probably can’t.
The answer is found in Biblical Hebrew – or more precisely – in misinterpreting Biblical Hebrew! As a noun, “so-fer” is an author or a writer, but as a present-tense verb for masculine it means counting. Since Hebrew includes much fewer words than English, it is common to find words with dual or even triple and more meanings. In this example, it makes a big difference if you use “so-fer” as a noun or as a verb. Whoever was the first to give a bank clerk the name “teller” must have taken the idea from Hebrew. Unfortunately, this person was not proficient enough to tell the difference between a noun and a verb. Therefore, we ended up with an historical mistake, calling bank clerks “tellers,” whereas they hardly ever tell us any tales. Rather, staying consistent with this Hebrew root, they should have been called “counters.” Counting, then, truly reflects their main activity. Whereas telling and counting are the same word in Hebrew, mixing the two could be comical in English.
The following biblical verses demonstrate how this mistake could happen. Note how the biblical term “scribe” was describing a person who actually dealt with money and bookkeeping.
Here is the biblical “so-fer” acting as a banker:
“And it came to pass, that whenever the chest was brought to the king’s office by the hand of the Levites, and they saw that there was much money, the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to its place again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered a great sum of money”
And here is the biblical “so-fer” acting as a writer:
“My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a fast writer”