Curtis Honeycutt: The Grammar Guy | Second verse, same as the first

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I miss sports. I caught myself watching people play video games against each other on TV the other day, and I almost found it interesting. Almost. What they should do is make the guys who are playing video games against each other play basketball against each other in real life. I'd pay good money to watch that.

Since real sports are on pause for a while, we should be ready for them when they come back. Let's get ready today by learning the difference between "verse" and "versus."

A "verse" is a stanza in a poem or song. It can also refer to a smaller division within a chapter of a holy book. If you had more than one Bible verse, for example, you'd have multiple "verses."

Additionally, if someone is "versed" or "well-versed" in a subject, that means they are an expert in it. This usage of "versed" is an adjective.

"Verse" can also be a verb. In this case, it means to create a verse or stanza of a poem or song. In the verb usage, you could rightly say, "I am versing right now," or, "I versed all night long." This has nothing to do with "versus," though.

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"Versus" is the Latin word for "against." When Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier, the hype posters read "Ali vs. Frazier." You'll often see "versus" abbreviated as "vs." or simply "v."

Before the cable sports channel NBCSN got its letter soup name (it stands for NBC Sports Network), it was called "Versus." This makes sense! It showed nothing but sports competitions and people talking about sports competitions.

I've heard people say, "He versed me at basketball," when they mean to say, "He competed against me at basketball." I suppose — as a stretch — you could use the adjective version of "verse" as a verb and say, "I'm going to verse you, son." This would mean something like, "I'm going to school you, son. I'm about to teach you a thing or two." But this still isn't the same as "versus."

You can't "against" someone. You can play against someone, but you can't rightly say you "verse" them to mean you played against them.

If you find me watching the 2007 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN3 for the third time, please tell me to turn the TV off. That said, I can't wait to watch "The Last Dance" on ESPN, which documents the story of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. When it comes to Chicago Bulls championship teams from the 1990s, I am incredibly well-versed.

Curtis Honeycutt is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist. His debut book, "Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life," comes out Friday.


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