An old grammar problem lies there

grammar-layhead

Just in case anyone has any doubts, this head from Monday (Dec. 31) uses the wrong verb. To lay low is an idiom for knocking someone down or overpowering someone. (The big boxer will lay low his opponent.) To lie low is an idiom that means to conceal oneself or to do nothing while waiting for the right moment to act. (The gang will lie low until the posse passes.) Even in these idioms, lay always takes an object and lie does not.

You could argue, I suppose, that lay low has become standard usage. The problem is that many people find such usage wrong, and those people will notice when such usage appears in print.

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.