Lum: I cannot tell a lie
“Lay down, lay down,” I hear people admonish their upright dogs, and I always think — and sometimes blurt — “If you’d just correctly say ‘lie down,’ the dog might respond.”
My friends and relations have grown so weary of my grammatical nagging and picking that they have threatened to put the epitaph “Here she lays” on my headstone.
In part, I blame the uptick of misuse to Bob Dylan’s 1969 song “Lay Lady Lay,” which goes on to say, “Lay across my big, brass bed,” reinforced by “Lay Down Sally” in 1977. Repeat it often enough, and it sneaks into the lexicon.
So imagine my shock and horror when I picked up last Wednesday’s paper and saw that the line in my column reading, “I could lay in two week’s worth of provisions” had been changed to “I could lie in two weeks’ worth of provisions.”
Oh, the humanity!
Note that they correctly changed the apostrophe in “weeks,’” but it was a heavy price to pay. In the newspaper version, my words meant that I could gather a great pile of provisions and then lie upon it, which was not what I meant at all.
I know I’m peeing in the wind, but really, peeps, it’s not that difficult.
Without delving into the nether regions of lain, laid or transitive and intransitive verbs, just remember this simple rule: Lay means “to set, put or place” (“I lay the pencil on the desk”) and lie means “to recline or be situated” (“Lie — recline — across my big, brass bed”).
Another helpful hint, for anyone who might be so inclined, is that if you’re in doubt you should say “lie” rather than “lay” because “lie” is more often correct. It’s a shot in the dark, but you’re more likely to hit the target with “lie” than with “lay.”
“We’re just laying around watching TV” is wrong. “We’re just lying around” is right. What a difference the simple letter A can make between laying and lying.
“I’m not going to take this laying down” is wrong. “I’m not going to take this lying down” is correct.
“Lay down the law” is correct. “Lie down the law” is incorrect.
“I want to lie down in green pastures” is right.
“Lie down, Sally” is right.
Then there is the noun “lie,” which George Washington could not tell, but we all know that one.
I’m biting my lip trying to avoid mention of the general misuse of “your” and “you’re” and “me” and “I” — just try to remember never to say “between you and I” because between you and me, it’s a dead giveaway.
Consider this an exercise in venting my spleen, in the full knowledge that hardly anybody reads the papers during the chaos of the holidays and this season it is about as bad as it gets.
Onward, me hearties — I guess that should be “onward my hearties.” Lie low.
Su Lum is a longtime local presently on steroids and feeling loopy. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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