SIR: I read a statement that "the demonstrators were laying in front of the bulldozers." Surely they weren't chickens, were they? - Clark M.
ANSWER: I know you ask in jest, but the misuse of "lay" for "lie" is almost too painful for levity."Lay" means to put something or somebody down and usually requires an object (Lay the book on the table).
"Lie," on the other hand, means (as one dictionary puts it) to be in or place oneself in a prostrate or recumbent position; it doesn't take an object (I will lie down).
Part of our difficulty with these words is that the past tense of "lie" is "lay."
Let's try a few sentences, in all of which the verb is correct.
The demonstrators were lying in front of the bulldozers. They lay there for two days. Someone should lay a sheet over them. After a sheet was laid over them, they continued to lie there. A chicken came along and laid an egg, which lay in the road where the demonstrators were lying.
Did someone say, "Lay off"?
SIR: I am a school librarian. My principal has asked me to get the proper spelling of a word used often by the late Walt Kelly years ago in the Pogo comic strip. Is it perloo, parloo or purloo? And what does it mean? - Mary C.
ANSWER: All I can rely on is affectionate memory, but surely that wonderful word was "perloo." No self-respecting possum would have it spelled "parloo" or "purloo."
As for its meaning, I doubt that anyone ever tried to define it, but you can tell it's awfully good and probably hot and gooey, too.
REMARKABLE DOG of the week, described in a classified advertisement and joyously reported by Betty L. and Helen M.:
"Four or five years old. Mix between Cocker Spaniel & Datsun."