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‘Curse of verse’ spreading in sporting circles

You don’t have to be well versed in the English language to know that versing is not a word.

Before it’s too late, we all have to do our bit to stop the spread.

Yes, there are things worse than verse in this world and it’s not a pandemic or even an epidemic but it’s becoming endemic in the sporting lexicon.

The disgrace that is the use of “versing” to talk about taking on another team or sportsperson used to just be the domain of kids. 

Now, sadly, that is not the case.

It’s become commonplace to hear professional athletes vociferously verbalising verse, versed and versing, which is very vexatious. 

Alliteration aside, it’s up to all of us who value the English language to protect it from the vulgarians at the gate.

One reporter tried to slip versing into a story recently and was told in no uncertain terms the adverse effect it would have on their chances of seeing their next work anniversary. 

(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

As journalists, we’re taught to transcribe and reproduce directly as they’re said by the interview subject. But when someone drops an incorrect V word into a sentence, the MEAA Code of Ethics will allow any media outlet to change it under section 1, paragraph A entitled “that shit ain’t right”.

In verse-case scenarios, we all need to stop it in its tracks so if you hear someone drop it into conversation, speak up.

One of the reasons why it’s such a problem in the sporting landscape is the confusion created by use of the correct word, versus, as in it’s Australia versus England at the MCG.

When you say “Australia versus England at the MCG” to describe a match, it can be mistakenly thought of as “Australia verses England at the MCG”. As in they’re going to verse them, they’ll be versing them. 

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 

Versus is a Latin word and etymologists, aka people who study the derivation of words over time, say it emanated from vertere, which means to turn, change, overthrow, destroy.

That’s what’s needed now – turn, change, overthrow and destroy anyone who transgresses or the scourge of verse will only get worse.

It’s a much tougher task, nigh on impossible, to get of many of the modern cliches that have infiltrated the sporting landscape.

The one which seems to be growing in popularity as a safeguard against pretty much any question is the “it is what it is” response, which is a surefire cop-out for any player/coach/administrator when presented with a curly question.

“So, coach X, what did you think of the team’s performance in their 50-point loss?”

“It is what is.”

“Oh really, how enlightening. Many thanks.”

It’s another area where journalists and editors need to see through the spin and not report these quotes as information.

The essence of bringing news to the fans is telling them information they don’t know, not regurgitating the cliches of people who have been trained to avoid saying anything newsworthy. 

Dog bites man is a common event. Man bites dog, now that’s interesting. 

It can be very hard to get an interesting comment from a media scrum.  (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

It can be very hard to get an interesting comment from a media scrum. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Players and coaches will often say they’re taking it one game at a time. It’d be worth reporting if one of them said “you know what, I don’t care about each week, all we care about is winning the trophy at the end of the competition.”

The “one game at a time”, like any cliche, is what you’d expect them to say so it should not be the focal point of any media outlet’s coverage. 

But that’s another story. As long as you fine readers are alert, but not alarmed, by the verse curse and do your bit to stamp it out, we will have one less rampant plague to worry about.

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