RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Oracle’s battle with Red Hat continues to become curiouser and curiouser.

Did Larry Ellison, Oracle’s brash top executive, say last week that Oracle had “replaced” Red Hat as provider of Linux services to Yahoo or didn’t he?

Yahoo and Red Hat insist that Ellison was incorrect.

Now, Oracle is saying Ellison didn’t say “replaced” but “displaced.”

In an earnings call, Oracle was quoted as saying: “Oracle has replaced Red Hat at Yahoo and numerous other contract sites as their Linux support supplier.”

The comment led Yahoo and Red Hat to issue denials.

“We will continue to evaluate and use the most appropriate vendors depending on our needs and their expertise,” said Laurie Mann, Yahoo’s vice president of engineering, earlier this week.

Leigh Day, head of media relations for Red Hat, issued her own denial.

"Oracle was mistaken in their comments," Day told a news service.

Had Ellison been correct and Yahoo had dumped Red Hat, Oracle could rightly boast about having a battle with its former ally in Linux development and deployment.

The Oracle-Red Hat dispute dates to last year when Ellison launched a broadside, promising to undercut Red Hat in providing service support. The attack sent many Red Hat shareholders into a selling frenzy and ignited a robust counterattack by Hatter management. Chairman Matthew Szulik and company moved Red Hat to the New York Stock Exchange from the more volatile NASDAQ, launched a stock buy-back plan, and then moved ahead with plans for aggressive new sales strategy such as a channel effort.

Red Hat also has made major moves to bolster its credibility in the enterprise market with a new release of its network product and with major deals for health services (a partnership with McKesson) and government defense contracts (Red Hat is part of a team building key network infrastructure for the new Zumwalt Class destroyers).

The Hatters disclose their latest quarterly earnings report this afternoon. Szulik could have some interesting things to say about Ellison’s claims.

Stay tuned.