verse = compete vs. (1984)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Oct 1 17:38:09 UTC 2005

On Sep 30, 2005, at 10:47 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> ... in a recent alt.usage.english discussion, Andrew Usher noted
> that the preposition "versus" is often pronounced colloquially as
> "verse". This strikes me as a more likely source for the back-
> formation "verse" (v). If enough people are saying things like, "I
> watched the Yankees verse the Red Sox last night," then it would be
> quite easy to reinterpret the preposition as a verb.

at first glance, this just looks bizarre: why would anyone pronounce
the preposition "versus" as "verse"?  it looks a bit less strange if
you consider the possibility that the pronunciation comes from the
abbreviated spelling "vs." rather than directly from the (spoken)
preposition "versus".  sort of like pronouncing "viz." as /vIz/, but
a bit more complicated, since "verse" gets its /r/ from the
pronunciation -- but the pronunciation stops where the abbreviation
does, with the /s/ (and "s.").


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