On 'versus' as a Verb (another cross-post from Linguist List)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Dec 21 20:30:29 UTC 2004

On Tue, 21 Dec 2004 14:45:22 -0500, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>

>(The verb would actually be "to verse".)
>Seems like another for the eggcorn file.  Do you have this one, Arnold?

This has come up a few times on the alt.usage.english newsgroup.  The
Usenet archive suggests that the back-formation found popularity amongst
gamers and then spread to wider usage in the mid-'90s:

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

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

        Date: 1996/01/22
        Newsgroups: 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
        Newsgroups: 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
        Newsgroups: alt.sports.hockey.rhi
        I saw a game with them, but I don't know who they were
        versing ...

--Ben Zimmer

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