Lay is a verb that means to put something or to place something. Lay needs a direct object.
Ex: Lay the book on the table.
Lie is a verb that means to rest on a surface or to recline on a surface. Lie does not need a direct object.
Ex: You have a fever, so lie down and rest.
Lay is also the past tense of lie.
Ex: Last night, she lay in bed.
After soprano Leslie Garrett won the Cleethorpes Cup at the Cleethorpes Festival, her father took her to a pub to celebrate. While her father wasn’t watching, Ms. Garrett drank a concoction known as a Blue Country, consisting of a pint of Guinness and a shot from every bottle in the bar. The next morning, she woke up with a hangover—unfortunately, she needed to audition that afternoon for a grant that would pay for her college education. Desperate for help, she attended a warm-up session with her voice teacher. However, her voice teacher saw that she had a hangover and was unable to sing well, so she told Ms. Garrick, “You’ve ruined your chances—I hope you’re proud of yourself.” Ms. Garrick went to the audition alone, where a kind receptionist noticed how haggard she looked. The receptionist invited her to lie down, and she moved Ms. Garrick’s audition time to last, giving her the maximum amount of time to recover. The time for rest worked, and Ms. Garrick recovered her voice and sang superbly, thus saving her college education and her future career as a principal soprano with the English National Opera.
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were friends and writing collaborators. They liked to play board games together and bet on the outcome. However, Mr. MacArthur habitually lost, complained about cheating, and never paid Mr. Hecht. Whenever the total amount of money he owed to Mr. Hecht reached $100,000, Mr. MacArthur would take out a $5 bill from his wallet, lay it on the table, and say, “Tear up that crooked score, and we’ll start playing for cash.”
Could a British POW in Auschwitz save the lives of Jews? Yes. Major-Sergeant Charles Coward was a brave man. He was a liaison with the International Red Cross, a position that helped give him access to things he could use to bribe Nazi soldiers. He once traded valuables for the corpses of three Jews so he could use them to save the lives of three Jews. Here’s how it worked. Each day Jews who could no longer work were marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau to be murdered. Some of these Jews died along the way, and their corpses were collected later. Major-Sergeant Coward had three Jews pretend to die and lie by the road, and then he arrived and gave them civilian clothing so that they could escape into the forest. He and fellow POW “Tich” Keenan then left the three Jewish corpses that he had bribed a Nazi for along the road; that way, the Nazis would not know that any Jews were missing. Major-Sergeant Coward did this over and over.
Theatrical maven George Abbott both wrote and directed plays. Therefore, he was very particular about language. When he was in his late 90s, he fell while on a golf course. His wife pleaded, “George! George! Get up, please. Don’t just lay there!” Mr. Abbott looked up at his wife and corrected her: “Lie there.”
To illustrate his Caldecott Medal-winning picture-book, Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey needed to know what the underside of a duck’s bill looked like in flight. Therefore, Mr. McCloskey brought a live duck home, wrapped it in a towel, and put it on a couch in such a way that its head stuck out. Mr. McCloskey then lay underneath the duck’s head and sketched what he saw.
Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, had a wooden leg, which occasionally created embarrassing situations for him. One morning, at the Savoy Hotel in London, he lay in bed as a waiter took his breakfast order. Because Mr. Capp was well covered with bedding, the waiter could not tell that he had only one leg, but the waiter did notice the foot of Mr. Capp’s wooden leg, clothed in a shoe and a stocking, sticking out from under the bed. In fact, the waiter stared at it. Becoming aware that Mr. Capp was watching him stare at the leg, the waiter recovered his composure, finished taking Mr. Capp’s order, then said, “Very good, sir. And what will the other gentleman have?”
Being critically and popularly successful as a novelist does not guarantee financial success. African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, whose novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is studied in universities throughout the world today, worked as a maid in her old age to earn money. When she died in 1960, she had little money, and when she was buried, her grave was unmarked. Fortunately, another acclaimed African-American novelist, Alice Walker, and the literary scholar Charlotte Hunt refused to let Ms. Hurston lie in an unmarked grave. In 1973, they located what they hope is her grave and put a headstone on it.
© 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved
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