Reflections on “Versus”
The following sentence from an editorial about a money-saving measure taken by our local county government caught my eye:
It’s about cost-effective verses cheap.
The misspelling of versus was the eye magnet, but then I started thinking about the use of the word itself.
I don’t hear the word versus or see it written out very often anymore. It may still have currency among sports writers, but I don’t read the sports page, so I can’t say.
As a legal term, versus has been in the language since the 15th century:
preposition denoting action of one party against another, from L. versus “turned toward or against”
When I was in school, versus was commonly abbreviated as vs and italicized:
McCulloch vs Maryland (1819)
Miranda vs Arizona (1966)
Now the usual practice is to abbreviate versus as v. and not italicize it:
Roe v. Wade (1973)
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
When it was still being written vs, the abbreviation was read as “versus.” Nowadays the practice is to pronounce the v as the letter name: “Gregg [VEE] Georgia (1976)”
By now, many younger English speakers may be unaware that the v. in the name of a court case stands for versus.
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