Beat that not-quite-dead horse

Maybe baby boomers can identify with this simile: I feel like an old 45 of the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” with a gash right across the middle of the chorus.

We had a class on grammar last week at The N&O. I led it, and the class was relatively well-attended. (One incentive was chocolate.) One part of the hourlong session was devoted to lay-lie. I went through the distinction: Lay is a transitive verb and must have an object; lie is intransitive and doesn’t have an object. I showed the tenses of each verb: lay, laid, laid; lie, lay, lain. I took pains to acknowledge the difficulty, pointing out that the past tense of lie is lay. I took sentences from the paper and made up other sentences and asked participants to choose the correct word. I thought I was running the topic into the ground. I thought I was beating a dead horse. I was laboring the point. I was sick of hearing myself talk about it. But then …

Here is a sentence from Sunday’s paper:

Tom Maltais lay his baby daughter on the floor to change her wet diaper and explained the process step-by-step to Randy Younts like Emeril walks an audience through a recipe.

We needed laid there. The object of the verb is “his baby daughter.”

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.