[at-l] Chili

Nina Rogers Nina.Rogers at DrakeSoftware.com
Thu Jun 17 08:04:21 CDT 2010

To say the café lady set an egg salad sandwich down is correct. "Set" means "to put in a certain place." It's usually a transitive verb, which means it takes a direct object. So you can set your pack on the ground, set your ferret on the top rack of the refrigerator, set your pants on fire, etc. Oh, wait, that last example doesn't quite work ...


Sit means "to be seated" and is pretty much always intransitive unless you're talking about Dottie, who (baby)sits my daughter for a living. In most cases, "sit" has no direct object. So sit down, Hopeful. Don't sit here; sit there. Sit, Ubu, sit.


"Lie" is kind of like "sit" in that it's usually an intransitive verb and involves moving your body to a different position. "Let's all lie down with Felix, close our eyes, and listen to the whippoorwills." Of course, "lie" means something different in the biblical sense and when followed by the preposition "with." We wouldn't all want to lie *with* Felix, at least not all at once.


"Lay" is transitive and is like "set" because it means "to place something down." So you could lay your pack on the ground if you're not happy with setting it there.


What's confusing is that "lay" is also the past tense of "lie." If you lie on a mountaintop for your first hiking break at 10 a.m. and then tell someone about it six hours later, you would use the past tense: "I got to that mountaintop at 10 a.m. and lay down for a nap."


Of course, if you told an untruth on that mountaintop that morning, then you'd say you lied. Then you'd be a liar.


I'm speaking North Carolina more and more. The other day I wrote that you need to fill out a form completely before submitting it, and some Yankee co-worker told me that my use of "fill out" was distinctly southern. Next thing I know, they're going to tell me I can't write "y'all" anymore. Hmph.




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