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That's not me. That's Balzac.
August 3, 2010 5:14 PM   Subscribe

In order to master the correct usage of lie and lay, David Friedman tracked every use and mis-use of the two in the series Mad Men.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! (26 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd advise that David Friedman go out and get laid. or lied.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on August 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


The part with the television announcer was what really fucking floored me. Totally laid me out.

BING
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:25 PM on August 3, 2010


In order to master the correct usage of time, I will be tracking the actions of every dumbass on the internet. Look for my results in an FPP in 20 years' time.
posted by resiny at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2010


I’m pretty good when it comes to grammar, but my wife is better, as I’m reminded every time I misuse the word lay and she corrects me.

I hope he means correcting stuff he's written. People who correct spoken grammar in an informal setting are intolerable.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


(That was making fun of Friedman, by the way, not the OP.)
posted by resiny at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2010


I'd advise that David Friedman go out and get laid. or lied.

David Friedman kicks ass. But at least you got the first comment in an internet discussion, so, hey.
posted by cortex at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2010


Up until a few minutes ago I had no idea who he is. But I was just having fun with a pun.
posted by jonmc at 5:30 PM on August 3, 2010


In before prescriptivism.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:33 PM on August 3, 2010


"I'd advise that David Friedman go out and get laid. or lied."

David Friedman kicks ass. But at least you got the first comment in an internet discussion, so, hey.


Thanks, cortex. For the record, I thought the comment was funny.
posted by ironicsans at 5:33 PM on August 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


OH YOU MEAN METAFILTER'S OWN
posted by shakespeherian at 5:44 PM on August 3, 2010


Yes, well, maybe usage was different in the 1960s and the show is just being super authentic. I mean, as a show that is allegedly obsessed with making everything historically accurate, if they're not going to have any of the characters speak with even a hint of any kind of New York accent, the least they can do is have their grammar suck, right?
posted by The World Famous at 5:44 PM on August 3, 2010


I'm going to smoke a Lucky and cram this sense of humor through your belly button and right into your liver.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:47 PM on August 3, 2010


I know plenty of people who were alive and grown up in the 60s and they don't get the lie/lay thing right. So the show seems plenty accurate to me.
posted by JanetLand at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember my mother telling a story - apocryphal, I'm sure - of her English professor's dog who would not respond to "Lay down!" but would obey the command to "Lie down!"
posted by governale at 6:12 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whenever I draw stick people I always distinguish the women by putting fishhooks on either side of their head. Until this week's Mad Men I didn't realize that the reason I do that is because when I was learning how to draw, women's hair looked like this. It's like finding a Ballantine beer can in your own brain.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:19 PM on August 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fun blog. Bookmarked.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2010


The Moms would approve.
posted by DZack at 6:43 PM on August 3, 2010


On the web, P('down'|'lie') is about 24%. The P('down'|'lay') is about 32%. Just sayin'
posted by willF at 7:07 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


In case you're wondering if it's the writers or the actors, Rich Sommer (who plays Harry Crane) was on the Nerdist podcast recently.
Chris Hardwick: How stuck to the script are you guys? Can you improvise at all?
Rich Sommer: Not a syllable. It's very, very word-for-word.
CH: You ever use a contraction and they say cut?
RS: They don't say "cut" but the script supervisor does come to you and say "You said 'can't' and it's 'cannot'."
posted by mhum at 8:12 PM on August 3, 2010


Also, I say that people who consider "I'm going to lay down." ungrammatical because lay always requires an object are lacking in imagination. The unspoken object is "my weary bones" or "my head" or "myself" or etc....

Meanwhile, who got to decide that "lay" is always and everywhere transitive? There are plenty of words that sometimes take an object and sometimes don't (e.g.: "I played the piano." vs. "I played for one hour."). "Because my fourth grade grammar teacher said so" is insufficient. According to Merriam-Webster:
lay has been used intransitively in the sense of “lie” since the 14th century. The practice was unremarked until around 1770; attempts to correct it have been a fixture of schoolbooks ever since.
There seems to be a recurring theme in language prescriptivism. Occasionally, you will find two related words X and Y, where X can be used in situation A and Y can be used in either situation A or B. For some reason, grammar scolds find this is to be unacceptable and conclude that Y must only ever be used in situation B. In this case, X = "lie", Y = "lay", A = "does not take an object", and B = "takes an object".
posted by mhum at 8:42 PM on August 3, 2010


I loved this when I saw it a few days ago. It reminded me of a linguistics paper I presented last year in my Semantics class. It was a lexical analysis of lay, place, and set. Before I started, I wrote this on the board:"Note: The past tense and past participle of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’; lie/lay/lain means ‘to recline’." To prevent confusion. Including my own.

I think it's interesting to see that Don uses both lay and lie correctly, in all instances (of which there are only 1 and 5). It'd be neat to see more data and determine whether other characters, such as Pete and Betty and Peggy, use one word more consistently and/or correctly than the other. It could demonstrate either ultra-conscious crafting of authentic dialog, or possibly not-so-conscious crafting of dialog. Either way, it's neat. But yeah, fascinating that Don uses it correctly, every time...it's almost like he's super aware and careful about how he speaks and presents himself. Hmmmm...

If at all curious, the differences between the three are as follows:
I. Shared Entailments of lay, place, and set:
An agent puts a sufficiently controllable entity at/in a location.

II. Distinguishing Entailments:
Place: [ + locational specificity]
Set: [ – attachment], [ + structural integrity ]
Lay: [ + horizontal or deconstructed manner ]

III. Connotations:
Place: planned, orderly
Set: impermanent, rushed
Lay: careless, haphazard

posted by iamkimiam at 9:13 PM on August 3, 2010


And by 'not-so-conscious' crafting of dialog, I don't mean 'sloppy'. I mean that the writer (or actor) is creating dialog for a character, and whether that author (or actor) realizes it or not (probably not), he or she is making language choices that are consistent with the persona that he or she is trying to convey. So, for example, either the writer/actor for Don is purposely exhibiting correct speech because he is aware that doing so fits the idea of 'Don', or he is unintentionally doing so, by way of method acting, resulting in a more correct speech for the character of Don. It's cool, no?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:20 PM on August 3, 2010


Now let's do past tense!!! (third verse, same as the first)
posted by unknowncommand at 9:48 PM on August 3, 2010


In episode 3.01, Sal says, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation,” which is correct. But he’s quoting Balzac so I wasn’t sure if he should get credit for it. In fact, he even follows up the line by pointing out, “That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” (The actual Balzac quote is “Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”).
I was going to snark by saying "The actual Balzac quote is..." and follow it up with the original French, but when I investigated: surprise! He doesn't appear ever to have said it!

> Also, I say that people who consider "I'm going to lay down." ungrammatical because lay always requires an object are lacking in imagination. The unspoken object is "my weary bones" or "my head" or "myself" or etc....

There is no "unspoken object," but you're on the right track. It's not in the least ungrammatical (as proved by the fact that it is commonly used in the natural speech of native English speakers); it's just disfavored by pedants who think English grammar is whatever their fourth-grade grammar teacher said.
posted by languagehat at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


languagehat: "I was going to snark by saying "The actual Balzac quote is..." and follow it up with the original French, but when I investigated: surprise! He doesn't appear ever to have said it!"

Ha! That's priceless.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:25 AM on August 4, 2010


This is simultaneously incredibly impressive and exceedingly obsessive. A lot of them are pretty much like this one: "3.06 Joan: “Go lay down.” (incorrect)" and I wish there'd have been some more differences in there but an interesting read for sure.
posted by AHM at 1:06 PM on August 4, 2010


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