SnakI Survived the Great Vowel Shift

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feb 18, 2009, 3:43am

It has become commonplace in Sydney Australia, for the young folk to "verse". Quite admirable I hear you say. Poetry, well written and executed can be a beautiful thing. BUT this is NOT what they mean. They mean opposing in a game. so the conversation goes..."Hey Miss, who are we versing today?" "Do you mean playing against, opposing?" "Yeah versing". Gets my goat it does, but that is language for ya!

feb 18, 2009, 3:50am

Oh, like versus! Interesting. Annoying as all hell. But very interesting.

feb 18, 2009, 6:21am

This usage is common in New Zealand too - has anyone run across it outside Australasia?

feb 18, 2009, 8:20am

I think it's an excellent coinage and fills a gap in the language. "Who are we playing today?" isn't quite as good, because the hearer has to fill in the implied "against", since otherwise the question could refer to acting. (Certainly there will almost always be contextual information to clarify the meaning, but still.)
I take it that the coiner(s) reduced "versus" to a hypothetical stem "vers", then inflected it as a verb (probably not consciously). And why not?

feb 18, 2009, 9:30am

I'm from the U.S., metro Detroit area, and my kids (7 and 9) use that so much that I've started saying it, too!

feb 18, 2009, 10:06am

I've never heard it, but I retired from teaching a decade ago, and my grandchildren, the only younger people I converse much with, speak English. Of course, they're no longer teenagers.

feb 18, 2009, 10:14am

For some reason this topic is reminding me of that word that was coined during the last televised Olympic Games. Something about when an athlete was interviewed? I didn't actually watch, or listen very closely, but I remember newscasters saying it often during what I did hear.

I know somebody knows what I am talking about.

jun 19, 2009, 9:41am

I see the usage as yet another indication of the entertainment-industry-driven need to see sport as between 'opponents' - one 'against' (versus) another or others - as opposed to games 'among' players in which the joy is 'having a good game' (available to 100% of the participants) rather than 'winning' (available to at most 50%).

It may be related to the difference between the Ancient Greek idea of games and the Late Roman gladiatorial excesses of 'games'.

Is this change reversible?

jul 5, 2009, 7:52pm

I'm a linguist (lapsed); I know it's a useful coinage, yet it irritates me to distraction!

My kids - my own offspring, and all the ones I coach in "soccer" - all use it incessantly - we're in northern B.C., reasonably far from Australasia, so I'm hazarding a guess it's widespread now. Be interesting to try to pinpoint an origin, or is it one of these coinages which has come about because commentators often use 'verse' to stand for 'versus'?

My standard response to the question "Coach, who are we versing today?" is "I didn't know it was a poetry contest, so I came dressed for soccer". Has absolutely no effect whatsoever.