Lay / Lie

To: Carlos Amantea

RE: Proofreading one of your reviews, where you write, and I quote, I lay down my head.

Dear Carlos:


'Lay' is a transitive verb; that is, it needs an object (in this case, 'head'; in the case of hens, eggs). Or: 'Now I lay me down to sleep' which is an archaic phrasing, but the object is, indeed, 'me.'

'I am laying down' raises the question, What is it you are laying down -- the law? If it is just you doing it and not doing it to something or someone else, you are lying down, as in 'The head is lying on the pillow,' as in 'Now I lie down to sleep.' Or 'Now I am going to lay my pen down and lie down to rest.'

Pardon the rant --- it's one of my 'fingernails-on-the-blackboard' mistakes. Nobody uses 'lie' and 'lay' correctly anymore. I think it's because 'lie' these days means only 'tell a lie' and to use it in any other context makes people jumpy. They might be accused of not being politically correct, which is a lot worse in the public mind than being ungrammatical. 'Me' is getting lost in the shuffle as well, replaced by 'I' or 'myself' in horrendous contortions.

Myself is done ranting, that's enough for you and I ... Spanish oozed into Portuguese and English is oozing into Amurricun.

--- M. Butler
Yr. faithful proofreader
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