Listen now | For his 150th episode, John argues that the distinction between "lie" and "lay" is an archaism we should abandon.
I say lay. You say lie. Lay, lie, let’s call the whole thing off, but let’s not call the calling off off.
It is a point of personal discipline. Abandon the difference between lie and lay, and soon, civilization will collapse.
I like proper usage. I'm surprised that John gives up the territory so easily. Complexity means nuance. And there is nothing we need more than nuanced speech. ESL speaker here.
Sometimes I wish we had a dictator who forced us all to speak Esperanto.
I actually do care about such distinctions, but whatever.
I’m cool with it…as long as being laid retains its unique meaning.
Not. The distinctions are important. Perhaps not to grammar levelers.
It seems a brief mention of transitive vs, intransitive verbs would have been in order here.Hens LAY eggs. Dogs don’t lay anything. They lie down. Similarly, You cannot be drifted down the river, But you can be driven. The action in the verbs cited, lie, sit etc, cannot be done to you. They only have an “active” sense. (that’s what is meant by “intransitive”. ELS speaker here
Just between you and I, Mr. McWhorter, why not, I see you today, I seen you yesterday? Because it hasn't earned its legitimacy? Yet? Changes in usage should percolate very, very slowly upward from the trenches. And resistance should be fierce. Just between you and I. Harold Brienes
“We must be free or die, who speak the tongue that Shakespeare spake.” – Wordsworth (1807)
Some think they can legislate the disappearance of invidious distinctions, but they're leading people into a trap. Inability to use these words properly will be a mark of illiteracy for a long time, whatever opinion on the distinction one may hold.
Chickens lay, people lie...literally and figuratively.
What if you don't maintain your automobile? Suppose you never check the tire pressure and tread, ignore the crank-case oil, the brake-fluid, your wind-shield wipers, the brake-linings? Well, there are safety inspections which come around periodically. You could try and ignore those, too. But in that case, you risk being stopped for a violation of the law requiring that your car have a valid safety inspection sticker. So, auto maintenance is important.
And so it is, too, with building codes. Builders have to meet certain codes in the construction of residences and commercial buildings. Materials must be fit for purpose and in good condition. Doors, windows, passageways, walls, ceilings, roofs--these must meet minimum standards.
Where your language is concerned, apparently, beyond school--if, indeed, anyone there still cares--no one bothers about language-use unless, of course, one's work involves the use of good language skills. More and more, in such fields of work, formerly known standards of good practice have slipped. They're allowed to slip by a general attitude that these things don't really matter that much.
So, in journalism, medicine, law, science reports--wherever one looks, formal writing and speech has declined in its former quality and expected standards of practice. We suffer for this.
When buildings collapse or people suffer car crashes because they skipped the safety-inspection and let your auto's condition deteriorate, these are dramatic demonstrations of failures to maintain sound practices.
Socially, we don't get such indicators unless we know where to look for them:
rising illiteracy and, just as bad, de facto, functional illiteracy--that is, those whose reading and writing abilities are so poor that they aren't able to get along in their work or at school.
Language is a keystone feature of culture. Remove or weaken that enough and things suffer and eventually fail in myriad ways and places. Don't expect to see things analogous to collapsing buildings because that doesn't happen where language failings are concerned unless and until those failings reach any of multiple crisis points. At that point, it's very late to take notice and take care.
So, no, ignoring the distinctions between "lie" and "lay" shall not bring about a direct and immediate collapse of society's vital infrastructure. Things don't typically work that way where general declines in language abilities are concerned. But society is weakened, rendered less resilient, less able to sustain all sorts of shocks to the social fabric--all because people don't and cannot communicate as well as they need to be able to communicate.
Always a fan of your work.
If I’m writing or saying one of these, i (100% of the time) hear my grandmother in my head saying, “chickens lay, people lie”. And I’m 57 years old!
I couldn't disagree with you more. When I hear someone mangle this I think they're ignorant, sloppy or I guess now, I have to suspect they may willfully be disrespecting a grammar rule and tradition. No matter which, I think it demeans the language. It brings to mind an inconsiderate guest who, though asked to dress for an event at one's house refuses to do so as a matter of principle, the host's requests, tradition, propriety, and manners be damned (they don't get invited again by me).
Complexity of nuances of meaning are not a compelling analogy.