Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lay, Lie, Lain... Oh, What A Pain!

Meet my dad.

You want to talk creative?  You only think we've been creative up to this point.  Real creativity is me trying to avoid using the word "lay" or "lie" - or any derivative thereof - when around my father who is the consummate English professor.  You think I'm kidding?  I'm not.  Richard and I joke all the time about the creative ways we skirt use of word, for fear of the big red pen.  
  • I "laid" or "lied" the pencil on the desk?  Who knows.  What about...
  • I put the pencil on the desk.
  • I'm tired, I think I'll "lay" or "lie" down?  Who knows.  What about...
  • I'm tired I need a rest.
  • Heck, even "I'm tired, I think I'll get horizontal," is safer than committing to either "lay" or "lie."  
And "lain?" Forget about it.  On this, we completely throw up our hands, knowing even if we get it right, that the rest of the world will consider us crazy.

That is... of course... unless we the readers of highlowaha decide right here and now... the eighth day of the seventh month of the year two thousand eight, to start a grammar revolution.  O.k., o.k. maybe not a whole revolution, but how about a small commitment to, once and for all, firmly embed in our minds the differences between lay, lie, laid, and lain?  We could do it.  And then, leading by example... one memo, one conversation, one text at a time... watch the incredible ripple effect. 

After yet another tutorial from my father, via phone... I proudly, but nervously, present the following...  

You lie down when you are by yourself and nothing else is involved.  In my dad's words... when it is intransitive and an action is not being carried over to anybody or anything else.
Bottom line...
  • I'm so tired I need to lie down.
  • If Richard calls me from the kitchen and I am in bed, I am lying down.
  • If you want to know what I did Sunday afternoon (past tense)... I lay on the couch and watched Wimbledon.
  • Now the tough one...  If I reflect on an action/incident that happened in the past  (past perfect)... If I had not lain there all afternoon watching Wimbeldon, I would not have a mountain of laundry facing me today.
Now onto items.  Things that we place somewhere.
  • I will lay Jack in his crib when he finishes his Sunday sundae.
  • Past tense... After rinsing the ice cream stained table cloth, I laid it in the sun to dry out.  P.S. There is no such thing as layed.  That is why spell check will underline it every time.  Don't ignore it.   
That's it.  All that hype and really there's not that much to remember.  So how about printing off today's post and reviewing it a few more times before day's end?  Be a nerd and bring it to lunch with friends or colleagues; glance over it while sitting at a red light; share it with your family tonight at dinner; and then, one more glance before you lie down and go to sleep for the night!  

You'll feel smarter and my 82 year old father will rest easier tonight knowing his good word is being spread.  Do you have your own grammatical pet peeve?  Make my dad's day and jump on the bandwagon.  Make a post telling us what it is and teaching us something. 
As for me... all the exertion of mental energy has worn me out.  It's back to bed where I can lie down for fifteen more minutes, recharge, and get ready to lay out today's clothes for Matthew and Jack.

Signing off until tomorrow...

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