The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
When Randy and I were recording the videos for our book, we came across an unexpected problem: how do you pronounce the "v." in the case name. There are two options. First, you could pronounce it as "versus." Second you could pronounce it like the letter in the alphabet, "v." Randy and I had never really considered the issue before, so we simply said whatever sounded right. When we were planning an Audible version of our book (stay tuned), we could not simply tell the narrator to do what he thought sounded right. There had to be some rule.
After some thought, I have settled on a rule that conforms with my general pronunciation approach. When the name of the first party is one syllable, I say "v." When the name of the first part is more than one syllable, I say "versus."
Consider some famous cases where the first party is one syllable. With each of these cases, I would instinctively say "v" rather than "versus."
- Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842)
- Knox v. Lee (1871)
- Hans v. Louisiana (1890)
- Schenck v. United States (1919)
- Debs v. United States (1919)
- Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)
- Buck v. Bell (1927)
- Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
- Roe v. Wade (1973)
- Craig v. Boren (1976)
- Gratz v. Bollinger (2003)
To the contrary, for several of the companion cases, I would say "versus." For example:
- Abrams v. United States (1919)
- Bolling v. Sharpe (1954)
- Grutter v. Bollinger (2003)
What do you think? Does my rule work for others?