I lie, you lie, they lie, we all lie
Aspen, CO Colorado
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m just laying on the couch reading.”
… or …
“How are you feeling?”
“I’ve got the flu, and I have been laying in bed all day.”
What’s wrong with these replies? Raise your hand if you cringe. Hmmm, only a few hands, and no wonder, since every day you hear, and read in the newspapers, the misuse of “lay” for “lie.” (I’ll get to “every day” later.)
You LIE on the couch, you LIE in bed, you want to LIE down.
The late Tukey Koffend, who owned the eclectic Uriah Heep’s store in Aspen for many years, had a bad ski accident one winter. A ski patroller told her, “Just lay there, I’ll be right back,” and Tukey, bloodied and injured though she was, called after him, “Surely you mean LIE!”
You don’t have to understand transitive or intransitive verbs, you don’t have to get into the uses of lain and laid, just remember the following simple rule and you can conquer one of the most prevalent errors in the English language.
Here’s the easy rule:
You LAY a book on the table (“to put or place”); you LIE under a beach umbrella (“to recline, be situated”).
Getting “lay” and “lie” correct is easy, but I don’t think they teach the distinction in school anymore because so many people get it wrong.
Since, of the two words, “lay” is more misused than “lie,” a general rule that will be more often right than wrong would be, unless you’re absolutely sure, to always say “lie” instead of “lay” and hope for the best.
You rarely hear people say, “I’m going to lie the plates on the table.” They are likely to (correctly) say “lay.”
The problem is that the general public is using “lay” as the standard, when “lie” is most often called for. So whenever you start to say the “L” word, pick “lie” instead of “lay,” because most of the time you will be referring to reclining or being situated rather than putting or placing.
I sent an internal e-mail asking who wrote a recent editorial misusing the word “everyday” and, fired up, asked if anyone at the %$@#* paper knew the difference between “lay” and “lie.”
Rick Carroll confessed to being the author, saying, “I cannot lay, I wrote that editorial,” which I’ve been chuckling about all weekend.
Rick added that he knew the difference between “every day” and “everyday,” but made an honest mistake, which I accept, but this error, too, is prevalent in the papers, no more so than in the advertisements, so it needs iteration.
Again, the rule is simple:
“Every day” (two words) means “each day” (“Specials every day”). “Everyday” (one word) means “ordinary” (“I wore my everyday dress.”).
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