“Versing” Replaces “Playing”

Maybe you’ve heard this:

“Who are you versing today in the Little League game?” Justin asked.

Or maybe this:

“I was versing some kid in China on Madden ’10!” Sammy said.

What we’re hearing, of course, is a new usage of the word “versing” instead of “playing.”

Have you noticed?

I think it’s fine. I’m not a purist. Language lives, it writhes and shifts, you can’t pin it down. I haven’t put it in a book though, and that’s got to change. Maybe I’ll find a way to stick it in my current novel, in an exchange of dialogue.

Here’s a brief blog entry, “Averse to versing” on the topic over at The Edited Life. She writes:

This is heebie jeebies, nails on a chalkboard kind of stuff for me. And I didn’t get where it was coming from until I started watching them “verse” each other on the Wii. For example, in the Shrek SuperSlam game, the announcer says, “Shrek versus Donkey!” Instead of thinking of versus as a preposition, the kids were hearing it as a verb.

I must interject this aside:

“Surfing the web” has become synonymous with “wasting time.” But when I selected this topic for today’s blog entry, I knew it would drive me into the dark waters of the internet. So I dived in, gladly. I clicked and followed links and there I was, suddenly, reading some stranger’s blog — a woman named Gwen — and her reflections of her mother who passed away a couple of years ago. It was direct, it came from the heart, it felt true. I enjoyed those “time-wasting” minutes, like talking a daily walk in the forest behind the house. You never know what you might find, or think, or feel, during these times off-task. There’s value in it, I truly believe that. Yes, I have work to do, and a deadline, but there’s always time for a walk in the woods!

I first came across “versing” — or first noticed it (big difference) — when Grammar Girl asked this question on Facebook: “Have you heard kids say “versing” to mean “playing,” as in “who are we versing the week”? Two people below say their kids use “versing” this way. Apparently it’s derived from the use of “versus” to describe a game, as in “the Bears versus the Bulls.” I’m wondering whether it is widespread or regional.”

The range of responses was pretty interesting, some examples:

“Never heard of it.”

“The 10 year olds in the Philadelphia suburbs say it.”

“My 19 year old Colorado gamer (Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) has used it for years. And I have been correcting it for years. I thought it was just him.

“My 11yo says it all the time, and I’m constantly correcting him and making him say it correctly. (I may need to apologize to him, however, since I accused him of making it up out of laziness!)”

“Texas: OW OW OW MAKE IT STOP!!! I”m going to tell all my [borrowed] children — nieces/nephews/babysitters — that they will be BEATEN if I hear this from them. And if I were still teaching, ditto.”

2 comments

  1. I think Grammar Girl got us all thinking about versing. ;-) Thanks for checking out my blog, and for your nice comments about my Mother’s Day post.

  2. Mary Lee says:

    I’ve been hearing this in my 4th grade classroom for years now. To the lady in Texas who would BEAT children if she ever heard it again…there are certain things like the tides and gravity and the English Language that are not worth fighting.

    I’m not giving up correcting “brung,” but I’ve been conquered by “versing.”

    And to “Never heard of it” I say…you haven’t been around children any time recently, have you?

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