Now and then someone will bring up a topic that sets off a substantial back-and-forth discussion, as happened yesterday.
At the risk of sounding like an old schoolmarm I just want to point out something that is obvious to anyone who holds dear the English language or communication in general. I think grammarians have lost the great battle of lay and lie. And if you're a stickler for correct grammar as I am, the loss will make you cringe.
I hear not only everyday folks but professional writers, too, say "lay" when they mean "lie." When a word is used incorrectly for so long and by so many it eventually becomes accepted, no matter how wrong the usage might be. But it's a grammatical tragedy. We've become so indifferent to our language in this country that most people will just go along with whatever the popular opinion is without any analysis, deep or otherwise.
You lie down when you're tired but lay down bricks, which may explain why you're so tired. I heard a joke some time back that might help clear up the lie/lay situation. Ma an Pa are sitting on their rocking chairs on the front porch. Ma says to Pa, "It breaks my heart to think about our two daughters laying out there in the cemetery." To which Pa says, "Yeah, Ma, sometimes it makes me wish they was dead."
One lays bricks but lies in bed. Of course, one can also lay in bed but that has a totally different meaning. See the joke above.
Gil's point, then, was that "lay" must take an object but that "lie" is intransitive, but that the grammatical distinction is dying because nobody bothers to learn the correct word from the incorrect word, so that finally there's no wrong or right word, just whatever word one feels like using.
I guess the bigger question, though, is whether it really matters or not.
I chimed in that though I had, in fact, thoroughly researched the "lie-lay" thing for my novel as I used the words a lot,
There was among our group some who lamented the linguistic changes they foresaw coming, such as one writer who posted, "I think in another few generations, we won't (wont) have apostrophes at all, and old grouches like me will no longer be here to foam at the mouth at the sight of 'her's' or 'who's dog that is,' etc."
I suggested that we shouldn't feel too badly about incorrect grammar morphing into correct grammar, as language is a fluid thing and so is grammar, spelling and all the other linguistic accoutrements, always changing over time with use, misuse and new use.
To which Gil replied, "Well, I suppose there's not much I can do about any of this other than to hold on to the standards I already have for as long as I can. But as I noted, I think the battle is already lost."
Mayhaps. As for me, though I try to learn and keep the accepted rules of grammar as best I can, I will admit that when I'm trying to tell a story I do get a weence annoyed over having to sweat the punctuation or worry whether somebody is lying down or laying down - I mean the image conveyed is the same, right?
But not all readers are so grammatically forbearing.
For example, a few days ago I received an Amazon review in which the reviewer raked me over the coals because in my novel whenever one character interrupted another character in conversation,
in this fight scene between two ex-spouses:
“What? Are you saying”
“I’m not saying any”
“I know what you’re say”
“I’m only trying to say”
“Because if you’re trying to say”
“Aw, Sally, don’t start, please don’t start”
“I’m not starting anything, I’m just trying to figure out what you”
"All right! All right!"
My critic perceived this punctuational omission as unprofessional, unforgivable, and indicative of a lack of basic writing skill.
Which stung, to the point that I was considering asking my publisher to correct every interrupted phrase in the book in the next printing.
But then yesterday, towards the end of the "lie-lay" discussion, one author referred to a remark Stephen King once made regarding grammar: King said that he was writing it and he would write it the way he wanted to.
Subsequently I've decided that I will leave my interrupted phrases as they are, dashless, as they will also be in my sequel (in which the characters continue to interrupt each other).
And since what's good enough for Stephen King is good enough for me, I say to that dash-obsessive critic: It's my novel and I'll punctuate if - and how - I want to.