Thursday, January 17, 2008

Therein lays the rub

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich reports with a heavy heart that a copy editor called her about this sentence she had written:

"The event night comes and you'd rather lie on the sofa."

According to Schmich, the copy editor thought it should say "you'd rather lay on the sofa."


The lie/lay distinction is often misunderstood if it's even respected at all. I myself didn't understand it until my freshman year in high school, when the teacher offered this simple device: lie = recline, lay = to place.

Of course there's the issue of whether people who know the difference should correct people who don't, especially if they're not writers.

I suspect it depends on the situation.

During my annual checkup, my former doctor used to tell me to "Lay down on the table."

Which, for me, raised two questions:

1. Should I correct him?

2. Has he done that thing with the K-Y Jelly yet?

1 comment:

Julie Hyzy said...

I missed this one. I've been really behind on my Trib reading... but this would've been one I really enjoyed.

Took me a long time to get lie/lay straight. I needed to work through decades of unlearning a nun's explanation, which I will not repeat here because it's incorrect and I hate wording things incorrectly - even on purpose.

I probably do enough inadvertent wording as it is ;-)