I try not to be a grammar and spelling nazi…

I really do. But I’m a writer, and also an editor, so of course I am. A person mistaking the difference between loose and lose can cause me to loose my shit in public. If they also don’t know the difference between their and they’re in there own language, well, I cannot be blamed for planting a word processor between they’re eyes with deadly force. Their, I’ve said it. If one more person claims to have found a way to reign in the political opposition, I’ll strangle him with a pair of bridle reins. Which I shall not purchase at a bridal shop. In the rain.

And yet it seems I’m as befuddled by my own language as anybody else. This came up as the result of a conversation on the way home to the Gulch Friday evening.

We had just set out and the dogs hadn’t settled down yet. “Little Bear, lie down!” Landlady said. The car continued to rock on its springs until I said, “Little Bear, go lay down!” Which is the command he’s used to hearing.

“What’s the difference between ‘lay down’ and ‘lie down?'” she said after a moment. “Because on some forum I read, some fool went on and on about the difference but I don’t remember what it was supposed to be.”

“I dunno,” I said. “I think it’s just a regional thing. I’ve heard ‘lay down’ all my life. As far as I know, they’re synonymous.”

Well. Of course now it bothered me. So I just now looked it up. And technically it seems her way is right and my way is … less right.

Lying down is intransitive (sentence does not take an object). Laying down is transitive (it requires an object).

Example sentences:

The protesters were lying down in front of the entrance.
The carpenter was laying down the flooring when the earthquake occurred.

Hey, I claim long usage. Squatter’s rights, as it were. I’m gonna go ahead and keep telling LB to “go lay down,” because I’m old and have long mastered the fine art of hypocrisy.

Anyway, English is weird.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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13 Responses to I try not to be a grammar and spelling nazi…

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    You ever look at stuff here: http://www.engrish.com/ Claire got me hooked, and now I go there for a good laugh each morning. I’ve struggled for a long time between being an editor/writer and a human being. May never actually get the hang of it, but I’m having fun.

    Have ignored the abominable use of English in “journalism” for many long years. Don’t expect it much of anywhere else. Just not worth the stress to care a whole lot. 🙂

  2. Zelda says:

    Anyone who wants to know about the efficacy of the US educational system – which costs us billions every year – has only to read web pages to find out how ineffective it is. Even government web pages, state and federal, are one grammar, word use and syntax error after another. Some government web pages have been so awful that I’ve emailed the webmaster and asked that the pages be reviewed by a retired English teacher. The response I got was “What’s wrong with them?” The paid posts on Yahoo are also a grammatical wonder. No one seems to use the Harbrace College Handbook any more.

  3. jabrwok says:

    Spelling and grammar are fascist plots to keep women and minorities down. Didn’t you get the memo?

  4. Joel says:

    Sure. But until now, I’ve been denounceable as one of the plotters.

  5. bud says:

    It’s also a “text generation” (or shud tht b “txt”?) thing. Adding the 144 character required shorthand on top of an inadequate education just makes it worse.

  6. Kentucky says:

    I try to avoid making an issue of it, but I certainly do form an opinion about folks based on their vocabulary, usage, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and general laziness in written expression.

  7. dddddancetotheradio says:

    Yeah, the loose lose thing still gets up my nose but I’ve relaxed because many people who do make this error are those I very much agree with.

  8. Matt in IL says:

    Tell me you’ve read Mark Twain’s take on the German language:


  9. Robert Evans says:

    Richard Henry Dana wrote of yet another variation in his classic book Two Years Before the Mast.

  10. feralfae says:

    Joel, I think that if you will say “Lay yourself down” you will have the grammar thing covered.

  11. B says:

    “There own lnguage”?

  12. Laird says:

    I don’t understand why people have a problem with “lay” and “lie”. It’s not difficult. But then I also can’t understand why people seem to have such a problem with the simple apostrophe. But clearly they do.

  13. Robert says:

    My off-topic peeve of pet: “it weighs five times less”, “it’s twice as close”. Just saw it on a billboard. Sigh.

    Unbelievably, I once saw the proper use of “fewer” rather than “less” concerning the number of items in my shopping cart. I congratulated the clerk who was totally like, um, y’know, “what?”.

To the stake with the heretic!