Thursday, August 9, 2007


A few years ago, my family was all sitting around the breakfast table, waxing vehement on our pet peeves of grammar today. My younger son, who did not participate, listened with interest for awhile and then gave us all an equable smile. "You people," he intoned, "need to get a life."

Well, maybe so. But this is my last ditch effort to save an endangered verb, one I am very fond of. Pretend I'm Saving the Whales.

There have always been two. Lie and Lay. These days, even in books and journalism, LAY is taking over where it is grammatically incorrect to do so. Poor LIE is being ignored.

LIE is a very nice, precise, quiet verb. It deals with you, and only you. It does not involve any other thing or person. Consider it an introvert. Just you. That's all it is about.

You are tired. You LIE down. You took a nap yesterday, when you LAY down. You have done this before so you HAVE LAIN down. Or you HAD LAIN down. That's it. Short. Sweet. Personal. No one else involved.

LAY on the other hand is an extrovert. Interactive, always messing in. Lay is about doing what you want to do to someone or something else. So you LAY the baby down, or the packages. Yesterday you LAID the baby down for her nap. Or you LAID the packages on the table. Or, what the hell. You LAID your lover. Gramatically that's pretty correct. You did something to someone else that involved being horizontal (mostly).
And you HAVE LAID or HAD LAID this before.

But people are beginning to ignore LIE. They will say they LAID down for a nap when they were the only one taking it. This is so wrong. It grieves me.

Please, for the sake of a fine old verb that his been around a long time and is still useful, use LAY or LAIN when using LIE, and LAID and LAID for LAY. Honest. A small piece of your life will be less confusing. Isn't that worth a lot?

Save a fine old verb for future generations.


Babs RN said...

We in the south are particularly bad about "lie" and "lay" but my grandmother drilled that one into me. I still do it in casual use but then I take a lot of liberties in casual use ;)

My pet peeve is "your" for "you're". And "u" for "you". And so on it goes. Drives me completely batty.

night lightning woman said...

Well, and let's not even go to it's when it is its and vice versa and alright for all right--where I'm about to admit defeat. And--but obviously we could go on and on. (sigh)

JPG said...

Examples of misuse and abuse of perfectly serviceable words are legion.

Their, there, they're.

To, too, two, tu.

And I daren't even START on the mangling of words committed by the dread APOSTROPHE MISUSERS.