Grammar

There’s Only One ‘A’ in Vice Versa

If you’re one of those who say or write vice versa with an extra a in between, stop it! Stop it now!

I was recently reading a friend’s Facebook post on politics. She was making some interesting points (along with a few I found ridiculous).

Then she presented a sentence of comparison and ended it with “…and vice a versa.”

Oy. I’ve also seen (and heard) people use the phrase as “vicey versa,” which might be even slightly more annoying.

The phrase is vice versa, with only a single a that comes at the end of the second word.

It comes to us from Latin, and it entered out language sometime between 1595 and 1605, Dictionary.com estimates; or in about 1600, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

“The phrase has the complete force of a proposition, being as much as to say that upon a transposition of antecedents the consequents are also transposed” [Century Dictionary].

Put more simply, it means, “the other way around.”

Vice comes to us from vicis, which means “a change, an alternate order.” Versa is a feminine form of versus and means “to turn, turn about.”

I have said before, when frustrated by a new workflow that had to be adapted to satisfy a piece of technology, that computers are supposed to make things easier for people, not vice versa. The meaning of the statement is that “Computers are supposed to make things easier for people, people aren’t supposed to make things easier for computers.”

Vice versa is one of several Latin phrases that are in common use today, despite people taking a great deal of pleasure in reminding the rest of us that Latin is a “dead language.”

Oddly enough, there’s actually a candy that carries the name. Nestlé makes “Vice Versas” in the UK; they’re M&M shaped candies that are a mix of white and milk chocolate pieces. (It consists of white chocolate pieces covered in milk chocolate…and vice versa.)

You knew that was coming, right?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.