Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time
Can somebody help me fix all the mattress commercials?* I can’t hear the first notes of the ooooh-aaaaaah Mattress Giant jingle or a couple of words in the syrupy sweet voice of Sleep Expert’s president, Christine Cook, without bracing myself for the offensive grammar that’s to come. How is it that the folks whose entire business model revolves around people reclining in their beds don’t know the difference between “lie” and “lay”? I hear that at Mattress Firm, it’s easy to get a great night’s sleep. And I’m telling you, it’s easy to figure out which verb to use to describe said sleep. Your cheat sheet:
LIE: rhymes-ish with “recline”
LAY: rhymes-ish with “place”
If you’re reclining, you’re going to LIE down; if you’re placing something on the table, you’re LAYing it down. (I told ya it’s easy!)
To take it one step further: You lay something else down. Someone or something just lies there all on its own. (It’s transitive vs. intransitive verbs, for all you gotta-know-the-details folks. I’m guessing those of you who fall into that category already know when to use “lie” versus “lay.”)
Even if you’re fairly confident with whether you’re talking about reclining or placing, much confusion arises when you get to different tenses. (You know, past and future instead of present.) And here’s why: The past tense of “lie” is, wait for it, “lay.” Yes, that’s cruel and evil and whoever first invented English is a sick and twisted individual. Sorry, y’all.
When you need to use one of those verbs, follow this handy flowchart, and it’ll all work out fine:
And that, my sweet friends, is how crazily complex “lay” and “lie” can be. This reminds me of something else: There’s no shame in using your resources when you need them. You can’t even imagine how many times in the course of a normal workday that I take out my Webster’s (my favorite dictionary†) and look up something. Invest in some good resources, download the Dictionary.com app on your phone, and feel great about using them all. I’d recommend a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a grammar guide‡ or two. And if anyone harasses you about needing a dictionary, just tell ’em The Grammar Belle says it’s OK.
*Y’all might need to help me with my television addiction too.
†Wow. I am a serious dork.
‡My VERY favorite is The Gregg Reference Manual. Check it out. You just might love it too!