I have heard a television news figure say what sounds like verse when it seems he means to say versus. Is this an alternate pronunciation, or is it a different word? If it's a different word, what is the spelling?

I suspect it's a mistake, but it is MSNBC news talk show host, Chris Hayes, who generally seems to speak in standard English in a way that indicates he is highly educated, who I've repeatedly heard use this word.

For instance, he might say what sounds like, "Consider policy A 'verse' policy B."

There is a very similar question here on ELU asking about using verse as a verb to mean challenge, which I believe is related but not the same as my question.

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    Three possibilities. Either you've misheard, or Hayes isn't a particularly "careful" speaker, or he's unaware of standard English. I think most likely the first - but if you provide an audio link showing exactly how he enunciates the word, I've no doubt it'll be the second. The third possibility is vanishingly unlikely except from people with limited language skills. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '13 at 4:00
  • @FunbleFingers As with this case, english.stackexchange.com/questions/117986/…, I believe you may be overly optimistic. However, in this case (regarding option 3) I'm not sure you're wrong. ; ) I'll try to dig up an audio link. – sarah Nov 25 '13 at 8:43
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    Irrelevant, really, but I've heard my young son and many of his friends use "verse" as a verb, repeatedly: "I am going to verse him in chess"; "I versed him in Pokemon and won!" – Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 26 '13 at 15:28
  • I would guess that the final "ez" sound of "versus" is being partially elided in rapid speech, and if the ear is not "tuned" to hearing such partial elisions it may miss the sound entirely, while others will hear it with no difficulty. In some cases such elisions are common to particular accents, and an ear used to the accent may not notice anything while someone unfamiliar with the accent may detect all sorts of such anomalies. – Hot Licks Nov 9 '14 at 22:31

I've frequently heard people, including highly educated people, say "verse" instead of "versus" as a sort of informal, shortened version of "versus." In particular in my experience it is an alternate pronunciation of the abbreviation "vs." So if I had to write out that pronunciation, I would use the abbreviation, not the word "verse," as "verse" is an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning.

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    I agree with this. People, myself included, will occassionally pronounce "A vs B" as /A verse B/. – GoldenGremlin Jul 20 '16 at 3:30

No, verse is a completely different word than versus. Versus is used when comparing A to B (as in "A versus B"), while verse is like a verse in the Bible or Koran, somewhat similar in meaning to stanza.

See also:


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  • Welcome to ELU! We always appreciate source references. :-) – anongoodnurse Dec 22 '13 at 7:58
  • This is just knowledge from the top of my head, but you can verify it with the links I will post shortly. – user60295 Dec 22 '13 at 15:24

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