Verse vs. versus

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This one just comes from listening to high school students talk. “Let’s verse” doesn’t mean “Let’s write poetry” though I wish it did. It usually means “Let’s play against each other.”

Why? Because people hear “New York vs. Chicago” and think the word “versus,” which means “against” is a verb “verses.” To conjugate this verb would be “I verse,” “you verse,” “he verses,” “they verse” etc. This just drives me crazy, because as a teacher I hear it every day. I fear it’s becoming part of the language. I guess, like the decline of the apostrophe, it’s just part of English as a living language which is changing over time.

I recently read a survey of this error and apparently it’s so common that some sportscasters are using it! It’s reported in students all over the U.S. Perhaps it’s just one of those changes in language that eventuallygets accepted. I hope not. It will always sound wrong to me.

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