December 14th, 2005
Timeouts or times out? / vice versa / my bad, part 3
by Barbara Wallraff
Jack Kettle, of Madison, Wis., writes: “At a recent NFL game, the referee announced that a team had two ‘timeouts’ remaining. My wife said that he should have said two ‘times out’ remained. Is she right, as usual?”
Dear Jack: If your wife were objecting to the phrase “hole in ones” in golf, I’d agree with her. “Holes in one” is better English. If she were objecting to “run batted ins” in baseball, I’d agree with her there too. Although the standard abbreviation is “RBIs,” when you say the whole words, they should be “runs batted in.” But “timeouts” is correct.
Terry Hofman, of Seattle, writes: “Is ‘vice versa’ pronounced the way it reads, or is ‘vysa’ preferred?”
Dear Terry: “Vysa” is the better pronunciation, because it shows you’re familiar with the history of the phrase. “Vice versa” comes to us straight from Latin, and a Latin speaker would pronounce the “e” at the end of “vice.” This kind of “vice” is a form of the noun “vicis,” meaning “position” or “place.” Literally, “vice versa” means something like “with positions reversed.”
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.