Issue 142, page 3

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curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Guestmudgeon Deepa Nirmal lays a trap for lay and lie...

I have lived in the US for almost three years now and just canít get over the usage of lay for lie. Can you let sleeping dogs lay? "I laid down on the bed." Laid what down?

Even educated people seem to have universally accepted the substitution, and the word lie appears to be left only with the meaning "to tell an untruth".

Whatís so hard to understand?  Lie is intransitive and lay is transitive. If you donít have an object, use lie!

Excellent mnemonic device, Deepa.  As for "I laid down on the bed", you do have to admit that in speech, it's rather difficult to tell if someone is saying "I lay down..." or "I laid down..." because of the initial d in down.  However, you are correct in that most people don't use the verb to lie unless they mean "to prevaricate".  Part of the problem comes in the conjugations of to lay and to lie.

Lie, lay, lain.

Lay, laid, laid. 

People can't keep them straight and so just give up. When was the last time you heard someone say "He has lain there for 2 days"?

Is there something you read or hear that sends you up the wall?

Do tell us. 

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