Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Rise Of "Versing"

My children frequently use the word "verse" as a verb --- not in the technically correct sense of "to compose verses", but as a transitive verb form of the preposition "versus". For example they might say "I'll verse you at Monopoly." For a long time I'd never heard this usage other than from my children (though I assume they picked it up at school), but recently I saw it in a New Zealand online forum. I wonder if this originated locally and whether it will stick. I think it's actually a useful word; the closest equivalent I can think of is "play", but in my mind "I'll play you at Monopoly" doesn't carry the same emphasis on competition.


  1. Yep, my kids too (ages 9-11). Would be interested to know if it's just a NZ thing, or wider - anyone?

  2. You mean they verbed the word "verse" :)

  3. "contest" is probably the closest I can think of that has the desired meaning, but I have a hard time seeing someone say "I'll contest you at Monopoly"....

  4. This isn't just the regular verbing though.

    1. Typical verbing involves changing nouns into verbs. This is a preposition. I can't think of any other examples of this happening.
    2. The word has changed from "versus" to "verse", probably to maintain a clearer distinction between the verb form and the preposition (because both are followed by nouns/noun phrases).

    I think "challenge" is a pretty close equivalent, but "challenge" is probably an old/boring person word.

    1. Challenge is close, but it means "invite someone to engage in a contest" whereas "versing" seems to mean "actually participate in a contest".

      Perhaps "versus" changed to "verse" because "versused", "versusing", "versuses" etc are too clumsy.

  5. confront
    brave ?

    In French, I'd say "affronter" or "se mesurer à"

  6. I heard it in Canada first so must be a pretty global thing.

  7. Interesting! We said something like this in the US when I was pretty young, 7-11 or so. I don't recall if it was "verse" or more like "versus".

    I distinctly remember hearing it around video games especially. This may be just a little too neat and tidy post-hoc reasoning, but we played a lot of Street Fighter back then, and a prominent screen had two characters with "VS" or "VERSUS" in between them, don't recall which. Maybe at that age we didn't know what "versus" meant and derived a verb from somewhere?

    I definitely don't remember anyone using that past middle school (>13 or so).