Monday, August 30, 2010

Lay vs. Lie: Rhyme Time with "Happy Gilmore"


Brian says:
"I was at a friend's house watching 'Happy Gilmore.' There's a line in the movie where Happy says, 
'How about I just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay, and lay by the bay. I just may! Whaddaya say?'
Just then, my friend's annoying older sister butted in and corrected Happy's grammar. She said that he should have said 'lie by the bay,' not 'lay by the bay.' Grrrr, she completely ruined it. Please tell me she's not right."

Oh, wow. Your friend's sister knows her grammar, but she wasn't smart enough to catch the joke. Adam Sandler deliberately chose lay because it rhymes with hay.

Let's take a look at lay vs. lie:

Where does Happy go wrong? He uses the transitive verb lay instead of the intransitive verb lie.

Quick rules:
  • Use the transitive verb lay with a direct object. I lay my keys on the table. The chicken is laying an egg. She lays her head on the pillow.
  • Use the intransitive verb lie when there is no direct object. I'm going to lie down on the couch. We'd better lie low for now. He lies on the grass and looks at the sky. 
  • Be careful about tenses; the simple past tense of lie is lay. After dinner, I lay down on the couch.

Nifty Mnemonics:
  • Remember, it's "Lay your cards on the table," and "Lay down your guns." In both, there is an obvious direct object.

Correction: 
  • How about I just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay, and lie by the bay. I just may! Whaddaya say? (Just not as funny this way.)
  • How about I just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay, and lay bricks by the bay. I just may! Whaddaya say? (It definitely loses some punch this way.)
  • How about I just go eat some hay? I can make things out of clay, and play by the bay. I just may! Whaddaya say?

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