Grammar gloom

I’ve mentioned it before: the increasing and distressing misuse of the word verse when the word should be versus. Versus is often abbreviated vs. or v. and is used when speaking of competition; for example, Rams vs. Broncos or in legal cases like Roe v. Wade. Verse, on the other hand, is an element of poetry or song, or a brief biblical passage, and is never abbreviated.

The words are in no way related, but increasingly I hear sportscasters in particular saying “verse” when they mean and should say “versus.” They, of all people, should know the difference; they use the word every day.

Even more distressing is the incorrect usage among young people. I suspect they learn it from sportcasters who talk about competition. And how the kids come up with something like “I want to verse you” is beyond me. I know language changes, but if this particular misuse becomes accepted (like the figuratively/literally thing), I shall truly be sickened.

I came across this limerick this morning on the Merriam-Webster website:

Subjunctively muttering his curses
Mr. Smith has a grudge he still nurses
“Were it up to me,
I’d beat them, you see,”
For confusing verses and versus.”

Mr. Smith and I are in complete agreement.

But now I’m questioning the punctuation in that limerick, which I copied and pasted without editing. Apparently dictionaries are all about spelling and usage, not punctuation.

Ugh. Pray your children never become proofreaders or editors. It’s a curse. Long into one’s retirement. On the other hand, it appears those occupations have already gone the way of the dodo bird. So instead, do this old lady a favor and just make sure your children know the difference between verses and versus. I’d appreciate it.

Thank you.

11 thoughts on “Grammar gloom

  1. Down here my pertickler hate isn’t yours, but that of DISCREET vs DISCRETE: there isn’t a single instance I’ve come across where the person writing the article has got it right.

    A grumpy old girl wrote a tweet
    In which she complained, with some heat,
    Of the habit today
    Of news writers who say
    Discreet when they should say discrete.

    (Sorry about the ‘tweet’: but what the devil ARE things written within “X” ?????

    1. At least in speech they sound the same. I gag when I hear somebody on tv say, “And tonight it’s Westminster verse Broomfield.” ARRRGH!!

      As for discreet and discrete, I sometimes have to look those up to be sure. After all, I can’t remember everything. Nice limerick. And as far as I’ve noticed, people are still saying “tweet” when talking about “X.”

      1. See, that’s something that simply isn’t said Downunder, your pet hate, Colorado. I feel sure I would be even more choleric than you, if it were ..

  2. One of my biggest grammar pet peeves is the use of “me” instead of when it should be “I” in the subject (or any subjective pronoun). The TV pundits are perpetuating this, too.

    1. It’s unfortunate that news people have to prioritize the news instead of their grammar while lots of people learn their grammar from what they hear on the news. It’s even more unfortunate that they didn’t learn proper English in school before they became journalists. It’s embarrassing to those of us who graduated from j-school many years ago.

    1. What!? You mean AI doesn’t do it all for you? Spelling, grammar, syntax, sentence construction, etc? Not very helpful when you still have to decide which option is correct. And yes, I turned off all spell checkers. If I need to know, I know where to look.

  3. As a retired editor, I’m appalled by the careless use of language. On Next Door, many people have stopped using punctuation, so you have to guess where a sentence begins and ends.

    1. Oh, I understand. Today’s “journalists” are flat out embarrassing and years ago I stopped mentioning that my degree is in journalism. My excuses for people on NextDoor include 1. English is their second language, 2. To keep it short, young people often drop punctuation and abbreviate or use acronyms when texting, or 3. They weren’t lucky enough to get a decent education. That doesn’t keep me from cringing, however. I pretty much quit NextDoor because of all the off-topic political flaming.

      1. I had also given up NextDoor due to the political arguing. But recently I needed a recommendation for a handyman so I braved the site and found nobody there is talking about politics now. I’m guessing the election season will get it going again, but it’s a nice reprieve.

        As for the grammar, I am in constant despair, especially when the news on NPR is riddled with grammatical errors. IMHO, the Republicans are finally getting exactly what they have long wanted and strived for – an uneducated voter population.

        1. Occsionally I brave NextDoor for recommendations. It does make me sad that originally it was good for gleaning local news, but no more. I especially hoped it would make up for the local police dept. no longer reporting crimes to my favorite crime map, but it’s too full of rumor and speculation.

          Bad grammar even on NPR? That’s sad. I wonder if the British sources are as bad — BBC and The Guardian. I need to start paying more attention to them.

... and that's my two cents