Versing

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Reader C.A. writes:

I oversee a chess club at my local library. The kids (mostly 8-10 years old) will often use "versus" as a verb, saying "I already versed him" or "do you want to verse me?" I was wondering if you've seen this usage cropping up anywhere (I'm in a suburb of Ft. Worth, TX). Is it specific to this age group or geographic area? Is it becoming common usage in younger people?

Neal Whitman wrote about this a while ago ("A Child's Garden of Versus", 4/16/2004;  "Verses vs. versus", 6/7/2005), and so did languagehat ("Budge/Verse", 6/5/2005). Grammar Girl has a more recent post ("Why do kids say 'versing'?", 2/16/2012).

Briefly, it seems to be a natural and widespread development, based on a misinterpretation of versus as the third person singular present form of a verb to verse. It arises spontaneously in children and then recedes. This is probably due more to learning the word versus than to correction by elders, though it's clear that extensive attempts at correction occur. This verb verse been widely enough accepted in Australia to get an entry in the Macquarie Dictionary. I'm less certain about whether it's gradually gaining ground in the U.S., or remains in an equilibrium state of youthful creation and mature repression.

In a comment on languagehat's post, Ben Zimmer cited some Usenet examples suggesting that "the verb found popularity amongst gamers and then spread to wider usage in the mid-'90s":

Date: 1995/02/13
Newsgroup: alt.games.sf2
Its a fairly pointless exercise, Versing characters from different arcades against each other anyway…

Date: 1995/09/23
Newsgroup: rec.games.video.sony
When versing the black car, remember that the first is a warmup lap…

Date: 1996/01/22
Newsgroup: rec.motorcycles.dirt
So if I'm right, the next one should be on 1/28 at 3pm est on ESPN2. Unfortunately, it's versing the Superbowl!

Date: 1996/06/10
Newsgroup: alt.tv.babylon-5
I have noticed one thing, there seems to be a lot of "B"s versing "S"s.

Date: 1996/09/27
Newsgroup: alt.sports.hockey.rhi
I saw a game with them, but I don't know who they were versing …

Ben also posted to the American Dialect Society ("verse = compete versus (1984)", 9/30/2005) with a link to a 1984 New York Times article (Eric Pace, "Latest Word: New Yorkese of '84 is here", 2/20/1984):

To verse: High school slang meaning to compete against another school's team, as in "We're going to be versing the Brown Bombers next week." From the preposition "versus."

Various other commenters  cited examples "from Winnipeg in the late 70's to mid 80's",  "growing up in Southern California",  "growing up as a kid in Pennsylvania in the '70s", "in Southern Ohio", "as a child (in Montréal, QC", "from the greater Bridgeport area in southern Connecticut", and so on. Grammar Girl presents this map of versing usage in the U.S., based on a Facebook poll:

"(Red=a person reported hearing 'versing.' Blue=a person reported they had never heard 'versing.')"

"During my Northern Virginia soccer career 1984-1988 we commonly versed others, but the parents usually watched us play them."

"Here on Long Island, I’ve heard “verse” used as you’ve described by my stepson and his friends, starting around age 5. They seem to have outgrown that usage now at age 11."

I actually use verse all the time (I think it’s a kids thing (I mean, what do you expect? I’m nine-years-old! Doug’s age now!)). I might have got it from Doug, but I was saying it WAY before I met him.

Many comments reflect adult attempts at correction, peevish or otherwise, sometimes involving correction of other adults as well as of children:

I have to admit that the “vs.”=”verse” {verb} innovation has always been a pet peeve of mine–I’m 24, from the greater Bridgeport area in southern Connecticut, and I grew up hearing this, both during video games and during various other games (“OK lets play pingpong, you and bob wanna verse me and tom?”).

I found your site while searching to prove to my wife there is no grammatically-correct usage of “versing” as a verb meaning to challenge or play against. I am horrified at this low-grade proliferation and hope it ceases.

I’m a seventh grade English teacher on Long Island. I get the douche chills every time I hear a child use “verse” as a verb. They actually argue with me when I try to teach them how to use the prepostion “versus” correctly. “That sounds weird,” is the most common reply, followed by “But they say it on TV all the time.” Really? When? Where? Who? This has to end. We need to band together to end the stupity.

I just heard a DJ on an FM station here in Melbourne, Australia use the word “versing” in relation to a competition they were running. I’ve managed to teach my two young kids that there is no such word, but really, who are we kidding? It will be in the Oxford Dictionary before too much longer, I’m sure. *sigh* The death of the English language continues apace.

I’m 42, live in New Zealand and have two daughters aged 6 and 8. They’ve been coming home from school using “versing” as a verb for the past few months and I’ve been trying to correct them.

I was horrified to see versed the verb on my little brother’s school newsletter so I pulled the Macquarie Australian Dictionary off the shelf to righteously prove their error only to find, to my total dismay, that versed is listed as a verb meaning to play against!

On the other hand, some adults welcome the innovation:

My kids have been using the verb “verse”–”He was versing me in basketball”–for YEARS, since G1 (the oldest, a DD) was in kindergarten. She’s in 8th now.
It’s a very valuable verb–they and their friends have used it quite happily for years.I’m ready to start lobbying for inclusion in dictionaries–it’s just so useful!

I hadn’t heard versing until my children started using it. I think it’s a great word. It’s not just in widespread use with Queensland (Australia) children, but seems to have completely replaced alternatives.

The Macquarie Dictionary entry:

verb (versed, versing) Sport (especially in children's language) to play against in a game or competition: who are we versing this week? [backformation from VERSUS (understood as a verb form verses, with the infinitive verse)]

Usage: While there are those who do not regard this form as correct, it is well established among the young.

The Wiktionary entry:

verse (third-person singular simple present verses, present participle versing, simple past and past participle versed)

(colloquial) To oppose, to be an opponent for, as in a game, contest or battle.

It's still not in the OED or in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Examples are common on news sites, though mostly in quotes and comments. Examples from Australia and New Zealand publications seem especially common:

you do realize this is the mariners vs the rangers one of the top 5 teams in the league versing one of the bottom 5 stopping one of the best guess you don't know real baseball.

"That's kind of funny," says Fox, who's aiming to make the 10-woman final in a top-class Cardiff field. "I'll be one of the youngest and I'll be versing some women who will be almost 30 years my senior." [18-year-old Australian]

“We love versing other teams, especially from different states,” said 10-year-old Morgan Gooden of the Celtic team. [from The Observer & Eccentric, suburban Detroit]

While the wallabies are solely reliant on Pocock at the breakdown the kiwis have a forward pack that all work towards slowing the play the ball and forcing turnovers making it far harder for any number 7 they are versing.

I did find one headline: "Report: Audi Q2 heading to Paris this year, to verse Mini Countryman by 2015", egmCarTech 6/18/2012.

Update — Jan Freeman wrote about this in her Boston Globe column — "Could be verse" 9/5/2004:

The current blitz of versing is not the verb's first assault on the American lexicon, as it happens. The word appeared in a 1984 New York Times story on Big Apple buzzwords of the moment, a list that included now-familiar coinages (demagogue and FedEx as verbs, signage, user-friendly) as well as passing fancies (binuclear family, fern bar); of that assemblage, only versing – "We're going to be versing the Brown Bombers next week" – went back underground, only to emerge 20 years later on the soccer fields of the new millennium.

This time around, versing may be unstoppable. All four examples in the Lexis news database for 2004 – one from Canada, three from Australia – use the word with no apologies: "Terrigal will be hoping to finish the season strongly when versing depleted The Entrance at Joseph Banks Oval," according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph. And on the Internet, gamers and reviewers are spreading versing with their usual abandon: One likes the "MTV Celebrity Deathmatch" video that shows "Garth Brooks versing Maralyn Manson, the Knight Rider guy versing John Tesh, and Arnold Schwartzenegger versing Sylvester Stallone" (spelling not corrected!).

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56 Comments »

  1. JJ said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    Time for the descriptivists to begin versing the prescriptivists again! Now, how would a prescriptivist rephrase that?

  2. Ben W said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 7:47 am

    I haven't said it in a while but I can also attest to this being used by myself and my peers (born 1989), from the mid 1990s until at least the mid 2000s, in the Black Country area of the English West Midlands. Versing was a synonym of sticking ("We'll verse/stick you tomorrow", "We versed/sticked them last week") and both were often used in the context of both organised and ad-hoc football matches, as well as other sports and games, and later videogames (often football simulations).

    As the days of me having a ball at my feet or a console controller in my hands are slipping away, I've not had a reason to say it in context for a while, but I'd like to think I'd stumble upon it given the opportunity, particularly as I don't recall having the misfortune being over-zealously corrected in the past.

  3. Andrew (yet another one) said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 7:53 am

    The usage does seem to be widespread among young people in Victoria, Australia. It does annoy me, a bit, but etymologically it's kind of logical as such backformations go. I fancy it may be a stayer.

  4. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    My anecdatum: I first encountered this usage watching commentated replays of a strategy game about a year ago. One particular commentator (Polish-American by upbringing, but I believe living in the UK now) uses it all the time. My inner peeve cries a little every time I hear it..

  5. David said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    Perhaps not 100% apropos but another verb that has shown up in my ken a lot lately is "shipping", meaning to place into a fictional relationship with. This comes up in comic and anime fan contexts. As in, "those fangirls were all shipping Loki with Balder, but everyone knows he should be with Thor."

  6. Faldone said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    @Ginger Yellow: I like that anecdatum. As to your inner peeve, I'd advise you to keep it on a short leash. Peeves will take over your life if you let them run amok.

    This whole phenomenon is just another data point supporting my contention that the language is re-invented every generation.

  7. B.T.Carolus said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:29 am

    I don't recall saying "versing" while I was playing sports as a child (I'm Ben W's age, born 1988, but from Southern California). However, I definitely recall driving my (very prescriptivist) father nuts by misusing the verb "won" as a replacement for "beat". "We won the Pirates" instead of "We beat the Pirates" was commonly said by me and my teammates on Saturday afternoons. I think there were some "The Pirates won us" uttered as well, although I would like to think we never lost. Like this usage of "verse," I think it died in childhood and none of us would say that now.

  8. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    As to your inner peeve, I'd advise you to keep it on a short leash

    As a good LL reader, I keep my inner peeve as deeply suppressed as possible.

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    I heard that occasionally in my childhood in suburban Cleveland in the late '60s and early '70s (for more anecdata). Many kids pronounced "versus" as "vers", so I think I felt the verb as a verbed preposition rather than as a misanalysis of "versus", but of course I don't know what was in anybody's brain.

  10. Wizard of Oz said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    hi,
    you may be interested in this blog entry by my Australian friend (and linguist) Greg Dickson:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/fullysic/2011/02/14/who-did-you-verse/

    It sounds like "verse" as a verb has made its way to Australia too.
    Some of the comments (mostly by Australians) are interesting too.

  11. spherical said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:43 am

    Be careful not to use 'X is well versed in Y' in front of these kids. They'll think you've lost your marbles.

  12. D Sky Onosson said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    I concur with whoever it was that cited examples "from Winnipeg in the late 70's to mid 80's" – that's where and when I grew up, and it feels pretty familiar, although not a form I would use as an adult.

    I just checked with my 7-year-old son – I asked him, if he played "versus his friend" yesterday, how would describe that situation to me today? His answer: "Yesterday I versed him".

  13. yuan10 said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    I always assumed that using "versus" as a verb came very naturally out of reading phrases like "I watched the bears vs. the packers game." Simply drop the word game at the end, and all of a sudden versus becomes a verb. I personally use the word "against" more now, but I don't think using versus as a verb sounds strange at all. English was never my best subject, so I guess my intuition never kicked in to correct anything.

  14. Arnold Zwicky said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    Two more cites: the eggcorn database entry of 7/18/05 (assembled by me), and a note "Verbifying versus" in American Speech 56:277 (1981) by Charles Doyle:

    From more than one speaker recently I have heard /vǝrs/ used to mean ‘oppose in a contest,’ as in "The Braves versed the Dodgers last night." Presumably the verb derives from the preposition versus. Is it new? Is it widespread? Would it be spelled vers or verse?

    Doyle's 1981 note is the first report I've seen in print.

  15. Rodger C said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    I had a high-school teacher (a generally incompetent one) in WV in 1963-64 that said "versing."

  16. Lazar said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Growing up in the 1990s in Massachusetts I never encountered the verb "verse", but I did always pronounce the preposition "versus" with a final [z] rather than an [s]. After becoming more interested in Latin in recent years, I've made an effort to use [s] instead.

  17. Gil said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    I've heard it quite often growing up in the NY metropolitan area — this usage makes me throw up in my mouth slightly and my hair stand on end.

  18. Sinkovits said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    Thanks for this reminder of childhood. I do remember using this when I was young (b. 1982), and I remember resisting correction.

    Faldone, I agree with your contention. I wonder how widespread this is among linguists. Perhaps it's so obvious as to be almost tautological.

  19. Dougal Stanton said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    I don't think we had chance to say this growing up (East coast Scotland, 90s) because we used "vee" instead of "versus" if I remember. (Might we have verbed vee instead? I don't recall.) Indeed even knowing what this article was about I had a hard time pulling meaning out of the examples given above.

  20. KevinM said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    Lawyers, probably because they abbreviate versus as "v.," often pronounce it that way in case names: "Roe vee Wade."
    As for "verse," my experience ("anexperience," @Ginger Yellow?) confirms your map. My son and his friends, as children in New Jersey in the 'nineties, used it as a verb in connection with video games, chess and sports.

  21. Mary Bull said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    Never saw this usage until today — born in South Texas in 1927, grew up there, moved to Tennessee in 1947 and have spent the past 60-plus years in Kentucky and Tennessee, with a 27-year career teaching in the public schools of those two states. So I've been around young people a lot, but without encountering "verse."

  22. Rachael said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    I haven't heard this usage before today either (England, age 30). I pronounce "versus" quite differently from "verses" – the former with a schwa and s, the latter with -iz – so wouldn't have made this back-formation myself.

  23. Paul Clarke said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    David: "Shipping" has been around for a while – Wikipedia has cites to Usenet messages from 1996.

  24. Julie said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    At a local (central Iowa, U.S.) high school softball game, the adult announcer used "versing" as a verb, as in "Tonight, we have Team A versing Team B." I saw several people actually cringe and look at each other. I'd definitely heard it before, but I was surprised someone older than 7 or 8 used it automatically, and it gave me the impression the speaker was not well-read or -educated.

  25. Tim Martin said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    I used this growing up (b. 1984 in the suburbs of New Jersey).

    What's interesting for me is the way I intuitively analyzed the word as a child. "Versus" is a word that we had opportunity to say often (at recess or playing video games), but it's kind of long and difficult to say. "We'll do me versus you and then the winner versus Tommy" – it gets old fast. In my mind, "verse" was a shorter way of saying "versus," but without changing the lexical category of the word. "We'll do me verse you then winner verse Tommy," or "Next is me verse all."

    You can already see how this is similar to using "verse" as a verb, but not really. "We'll do me verse you" is like saying "We'll do X," so 'verse' isn't really a verb yet, but it's getting close. I don't think I ever made the full leap into verbage, saying things like "Did you verse him?" or "Who are you versing?" (which one of the blog posts mentioned). Those sound a bit strained to me. But I can see how the connection might have been made.

  26. Circe said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    On the topic of "verbification", the trivia/puzzle website Futility Closet recently published this letter to an editor from the 1980s:

    Sir,

    Radio 4 this morning (December 15) introduced the verb ‘anonymise’. May I therefore letterise you that such verbising terribilises the English language and should not be radioised by the BBC.

    Yours sincerely,

    Bernard Coote

    I can only imagine what Mr Coote would have to say about the topic of "anonymization" recently gaining a lot of interest in the study of databases.

  27. Irenaeus Saintonge said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

    It seems to make sense intuitively to me. I don't think I ever used it as a kid, but I'm sure I did hear it used. However, when it's written I find it confusing to read. My mind automatically goes to the mainstream definition of verse.

  28. Antariksh Bothale said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    This versing business reminds me of the verb 'to ship' that is common in the fan-fiction community, and means writing a fan-fiction where you pair up two of the characters in some kind of romantic relationship.

    So you have things like Harry-Hermione shipping or Harry-Ron shipping (that's slash fan-fiction, where you pair people of the same sex).

  29. Adrian said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    My daughter (age 7, Birmingham, England) uses this new verb. It seems well established and pretty harmless. She says "on accident" as well, which would irritate me if she wasn't so sweet.

  30. Rubrick said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    Seems like a useful neologism to me, though some confusion may ensue when sportscasters first start saying things like "Syracuse will be reversing Alabama in the finals."

  31. Dan Hemmens said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Shipping seems quite different from versing in that – it seems very likely – "versing" comes from a specific language mistake – mistaking "versus" for "verses", the third-person singular of some imaginary verb "to verse". It's a mistake I vaguely recall making myself as a child. (To be clear, I don't intend the word "mistake" here to mean that I think there's anything "wrong" with the construction).

    Shipping arises from a more conventional form of verbing. Relationship abbreviates to 'ship, the act of putting two characters in a 'ship is verbed as "shipping". Nobody mistakenly identifies "ship" as a verb in a context where it is not being used as one.

  32. The Ridger said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    Also, saying that saying "he's well versed in this topic" will "make kids think you've lost your marbles" is implying that the kids can't deal with homophones.

  33. Rube said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

    Asked my Toronto eleven-year old if he and his buddies used "verse"in this sense, and he said "Everybody does. I know it's wrong."

    This explains why I've never heard it. He's gotten pretty adept at switching his vocabulary to suit his audience.

  34. Joshua said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

    I definitely heard and used the word "verse" this way growing up in Hawaii in the 80s and early 90s.

  35. Chris Sundita said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 1:07 am

    I recall hearing versed used that way by my peers when fighting games became popular in the early 1990s – Street Fighter II & Mortal Kombat – because the games were set up as X vs. Y.

    I also remember a letter in either Wizard Magazine or one of the Marvel Comics, someone asked "what would happen if Wolverine versed Spider-man" (not sure if those were indeed the names), the editor, in his reply, gave a smart-ass reply about Wolverine reciting poetry verses. lol

  36. Joyce Melton said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    I think I've only ever heard it used humorously, by someone who knew good and well that verse was not a standard verb.

  37. Chris Sundita said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 1:18 am

    I should note, that I found a couple of Tagalog/Taglish examples by Googling "vinersus" and "binersus" (perfective aspect of "to verse")

    from: http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=FIGAD9w1ib0&page=1
    "ang bobo ng mga host… vinersus yong mga Bata laban sa Propesyonal.. hindi na nahiya! hahaha"

    "The hosts are so dumb… he versed the children against the professionals.. he didn't feel ashamed! hahaha"

    note: It looks like he's using "versed" in the sense of "to pit against each other"

    link: http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=uTXFjL_w0Go&page=1
    "mas magaling si jaclyn dito., sana si rachelle nalang ang binersus., "

    "Jaclyn is better here, she should have gone against Rachelle."

  38. David Walker said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    Come on, it should be "versusing" or "versused", as in "The Braves versused the Yankees last night and eked out a win". Or, "Tonight, we have Team A versusing Team B". So much better!

  39. Rod Johnson said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    this usage makes me throw up in my mouth slightly and my hair stand on end.

    But why? I would love it if, when people articulate reactions like this, they would also engage in a little bit of reflection about what the basis is for that reaction and whether it really makes any sense. Otherwise, this is like saying "I hate spinach"—not really very interesting to anyone but the hater.

  40. Tony said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    I'm with Rachael: I've never heard of this usage before and am baffled by it since versus and verses are quite distinct when written and when pronounced.

    I'm 25 and grew up in the Toronto area. I can't decide whether I am too old or too young (or too reclusive?) to have managed to miss this phenomenon completely.

    [(myl) I believe that you're mistaken about the "quite distinct when pronounced" part. I'd be willing to wager a substantial sum of money that if we took a collection of instances of these words out of context, neither you nor other listeners would be able to distinguish them much (if at all) better than chance.]

  41. Edwin said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 11:00 am

    When I was growing up (in Scotland), we did use it the David suggests. "I'll versus you next", "you've versused everyone now".

  42. Mr Punch said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    I (older, Boston area) first heard this in the late '80s, in the context of youth ice hockey. The comments here do seem to suggest a Canadian – Scottish – Australian connection.

  43. Bob Ladd said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    @MYL in response to Tony: Don't wager too substantial a sum of money, Mark. I don't know about Tony, who grew up in Toronto, but Rachael says she is English, and I can attest from many years of listening to British English with North American ears that many speakers really do have different unstressed vowels where most North Americans just have schwa. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Rachael's pronunciation of verses and versus really do have quite distinct vowels in the second syllable. In general, the vowel of the plural ending in BrEng really is quite high and more front than in AmEng. In fact, in some British varieties taxis and taxes or pitied and pitted are pronounced identically.

    Flemming and Johnson had a paper in the Journal of the IPA a few years ago called Rosa's roses, which concluded that in American English the unstressed vowels of these two words overlap, though that of Rosa's is more variable. That's the pronunciation that would allow you to win your bet. But for some British speakers, the corresponding phrase with almost-homophonous words would be Rosie's roses, and the difference between Rosa's and roses would be very clear. Those are the speakers that you wouldn't want to wager with.

    [(myl) But if I lost the bet, it would be because of the final /s/ (in versus) vs. /z/ (in verses).]

  44. A.J. Luxton said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

    My inner pedant is grimacing, but I have to admit it passes my simple test for whether a word should be admitted into the language: does it add utility?

    Well, it seems to be a synonym to "competing with" or "setting up competition between" – two syllables in place of four or more; its meaning also seems extremely distinct from other usages of the word "verse" so I doubt homophone confusion will impair the utility of the existing word or the new one.

    I'm pretty sure my aversion is strictly on grounds of taste. Some of these neologisms are like spray-tans. Not injurious to health, and if people feel like walking around painted orange, it's not my business to complain about it.

  45. Tony said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

    I should probably have been clearer: I was, as MYL guessed, referring to the voiced/voiceless "s". Despite taking a linguistics course in second year, I have zero confidence in my ability to identify vowel sounds…

    I do agree that a young enough listener (or, really, any listener) would probably not be able to tell "Thunder versus Heat" apart from "Thunder verses Heat". Still, you'd think the combination of the different-final-consonant thing and the different-part-of-speech thing would tip dem kiddies off. Or is this my inability to empathise with the challenges faced by a naive learner of English?

    P.S. No bet!

  46. D Sky Onosson said,

    June 20, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

    I've asked both my children, ages 7 & 10, about this now (surreptitiously, without letting them know what I was really asking about), and it is a productive, ordinary verb for both of them. I feel no need to "correct" them on it – as far as I'm concerned, English belongs to them as much as it does to me.

  47. dw said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 12:37 am

    This linguistic old fogey finds the usage charming. My goodness — what can the world be coming to?

  48. LDavidH said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    FWIW: my 10-year old son, native BrE speaker living in England, tells me they do indeed use "verse" as a verb, but also "vee", as in "England is v-ing (veeing) Sweden". Interesting!

  49. Trent said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    Huh. And all these years I thought "versed" was essentially equivalent to "schooled" as in "He schooled me at basketball." I had always believed it suggested not only beating someone at something but also teaching them, albeit in an "in your face" manner.

  50. Ellen K. said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    @Tony

    In order for the different final consonant to "tip dem kiddies off" the two words would have to have different final consonants. Not something that's consistently true. In fact, it hadn't even occurred to me until reading one of the comments this morning on the "Vers(e|u)s" post that "versus" could be pronounced with a voiceless s at the end.

    And even with speakers who would consitantly pronounce versus with a voicess ending consonant, it still may be hard to differentiate the two (from sound alone) in running speech.

  51. Astro said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    I heard a variation on this a lot as a kid in Winnipeg in the 1980s.

    Usually, it was along the lines of:

    "Who's on Hockey Night in Canada tonight?"

    "Oh, it's the Jets verse the Oilers."

  52. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 22, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    @Ellen K.: The pronunciation of "versus" with a final /s/ is the first one in M-W, dictionary.com, and the AHD and the only one in the NSOED. I wonder how the one with a /z/ got started. Is it the only English word ending in -us that some people pronounce with a final /z/? (Not that that makes it incorrect, of course.)

  53. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 22, 2012 @ 9:32 am

    I meant to say I'm not sure any more that I heard the verb vers' as a child, so disregard what I said above (if anyone regarded it).

  54. Ellen K. said,

    June 22, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

    On the voiced S (Z sound) at the end of versus, perhaps is comes from assimilation with the following sound. And with the voiced TH of "the" often following it, that would make it probably more often than not voiced, thus making it the default pronunciation for many people, I think. And even where it's not it may become voiced in fluent speech.

  55. Zee said,

    June 28, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    I'm English second language speaker but in my 40 years of life, have only come across versed/ versing from my now 10 year old son, who seems to converse this way with his fellow Canadian friends. In fact, had it not been for his teacher who shared that she'd heard sports commentators speak thus, I would have thought he was the inventor of such usage of the word. Well the same group of kids decided that the anthonym of "include" is outclude?, and Canadians go golfing. No wonder they say fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. Language is truly dynamic, who would have thought we would be facebooking or tweeting? Let them continue versing but I won't be caught dead breaking the Queen's language, unless ofcourse it's innocent second language speaker ignorance. Thanks for opening this discussion- interesting indeed!

  56. Mick Grantham said,

    July 1, 2012 @ 1:23 am

    Is it at all possible to get anyone to comment on the mispronunciation, in the main by Americans, although becoming increasingly prevalent by Europeans, even British Newscasters for God's sake of the definite article before a vowel sound? E.g. The Earth -"thu Earth". The oil – "thu oil". It reminds me of the way my children pronounced it when they were young. I realise, and accept (somewhat reluctantly) thee evolution of language but this deliberate misuse of a part of English grammar that contributes to the flow of speech leads me to ask, simply, "why?".

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