I Cannot Lie, But I Lay Like a Rug

I am not sure where all the English teachers are on this, but do you all remember learning that the verb present tense for stretching oneself out on a horizontal surface is “lie”, not “lay”? Try to find someone using “lie” in this sense anymore. Do people even understand the expression “lie like a rug”?

Here’s an Associated Press instance of this misusage:

His warnings were heard too late, and he’s become a symbol of a botched oversight of Madoff by the SEC. His mother says the father of three boys under 5 has been bombarded by media requests. Now, a man who tried to be heard for years is going to lay low for a bit, she said.

I would have figured that people would at least retain familiar combinations like “lie low”.

Not to be completely boring about this, I will mention the German cognates, which I suppose to be in no danger of being lost: liegen and legen. Germans do have the advantage of having another different word for “lie” in the sense of telling a falsehood; that is lügen.

On to see how my umlaut looks in my browser when I publish this post.


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