15 JULY 1905, Page 17

wish to draw attention through your columns to the misuse

of the verb "to lay" in place of the verb "to lie." I have no grammar-book to refer to, but I take it that the two verbs are conjugated thus : "lie, lying, lay, lain," and "lay, laying, laid, laid." I may not be quite correct as to the grammatical points, but surely the two verbs are so used by educated persons generally both in speech and in writing. I have written "by educated persons generally" because such expressions as "I am going to lay down," "He laid down in his wet clothes," "It is laying on the table," are quite commonly used in the South of England and by educated persons. In Scotland such forms are, I believe, never used, even by the comparatively uneducated. I used to look upon this use of the transitive verb "to lay" in an intransitive sense as merely a Cockney form of speech. It seems to be widely prevalent, however, like the expressions " idea-r-of " and "nothing-k," but it is less excusable, as these latter are faults of accent only, and do not as yet appear in written speech. In "A Short History of Our Own Times," chap. 7, I find this sentence : "Many, very many, thus disappointed, merely laid down on the pavement and died there "; Anthony Trollope in " Framley Parsonage" makes the same mistake ; it occurs frequently in London newspapers ; it is common in medical magazines; and finally, it is taught by a Cambridge Pro- fessor to be correct. On opening " Notes on the Composition of Scientific Papers," by Professor Clifford Allbutt, M.A., M.D., &c., I at once looked to see if the verbs "to lie" and "to lay" were mentioned. I found the following in "a casual list of words which suffer misuse," the words in brackets apparently being the author's correction :—" To lie and to /ay. He lay (laid) down in his wet clothes," This notion underlay (under- laid) his speech,' are instances of vulgar errors which still reappear." If in the theses examined by Professor Clifford Allbutt "lay," as above, only "still reappears," then " laid " must be the form commonly used by candidates for the Cambridge medical degrees. Surely, then, the matter is worthy of discussion. Lastly, is it admissible to say that a ship "lays up" and "lays to" P-1 am, Sir, &c., Grantown-on-Spey. W. E. SCOTT-MONCRIEFF.

[There is no mystery about the matter. You lie down on your bed, but you lay a book down on the table. You let the tree lie where it falls, but you lay another tree across it. You order a ship to "lie to," but you report that the ship "lay to" for several hours. To confuse the two verbs "to lie" and "to lay" is either carelessness or ignorance. Byron in the famous instance in " Childe Harold" was guilty of this vulgarism.—ED. Spectator.]