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MARTHA SEZ: Benjy was first owned by an English major and would respond only to the command ‘Go lie down.’

April 26, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

My steering wheel was making creaking noises.

"It's probably just a bushing," said the owner of the garage where I take my car for service.

"Oh, yes," I agreed, nodding thoughtfully. Had you been there, you would have thought I knew what a bushing was. I made an appointment to have the power steering looked at.

We all have our areas of expertise. You might know everything about fly fishing, for example. You might know all about the flora and fauna of the river and the effects of sand and salt on their environment, and you might have the rules and regulations for fishing in your state committed to memory. You might know when trout are likely to bite, what kind of fly to tie for every occasion and how to tie it.

You might also know what a bushing is, but then again you might not.

We often assume that others understand what we are talking about. We may be flabbergasted to learn otherwise.

"What is a defibulater?" someone may ask a healthcare provider.

"A defibrillator may be external, transvenous or implanted," the health care provider begins, and already the questioner's eyes are glazing over, and he is back to thinking about fishing. He was only asking the question in order to be polite, after all. He may never need to know what a defibrillator is. Plenty of time to learn, if and when the day comes.

English has always been my favorite subject. I am not saying that I'm above making mistakes.

"Oh, so you're a grammar fascist?" a co-worker recently asked me for some unknown reason. No, quite the opposite. I don't expect everyone to be correct in his or her diction.

Sometimes, though, it bothers me when people put apostrophes before the "s" on a plural word, as in "Guess how many jellybean's are in that jar?" It hurts me, like the sound of sled runners on cement.

Teachers and school administrators should know better than to employ apostrophes in plural words that are not possessive, and they should know how to conjugate verbs.

How many times have your children brought home notes from school with such statements as "We are now making birdhouse's" or "The ancient Egyption's used slave labor to build the pyramid's?"

I hardly even notice anymore when people confuse the verbs to lie and to lay. In fact, because of common usage, it may no longer be considered incorrect to use the two interchangeably.

The verb lay always takes an object; you lay something down. As in, "Now I lay me down to sleep." Lay, laid, had laid.

The verb lie is a different word altogether. It does not take an object. Here is an example: "When I hear you say you are going to go lay out in the sun I feel that I have to go lie down." Lie, lay, had lain.

We used to have a neighbor, Dan McGee, who was constantly yelling at his dog, Benjy, "Go lay down! Go lay down!"

Benjy would just stand there, as if he couldn't fathom what on earth McGee was talking about. As my sister later learned, Benjy was first owned by an English major and would respond only to the command "Go lie down." After she explained this to McGee, he began to tell Benjy to go lie down, with excellent results. When McGee forgot-old habits are hard to break-we would hear him bellowing "Go lay down!" at the top of his lungs, and my sister would have to yell across the yard "Lie down! You mean go lie down!" This always worked.

I recently heard a TV newscaster say, "The new courthouse was builded," and a well-respected contemporary novelist wrote, "The boat tipped over and sunk in the water."

Come on, communicators! Build, built, built! Sink, sank, sunk! You're killing me.

In the case of the author, you would think an editor would have caught the mistake. Maybe the editor thought it didn't matter. Maybe the editor didn't know any better. Maybe there wasn't any editor.

By the way, I did google bushing. Turns out it's a little metal slidey thing. I took my car back to the garage to be fixed.

"What was the problem?" I asked the mechanic.

"Power steering mounting bracket," he said. "It'll be all right for a while yet. When you start to hear a hammering noise, bring it back."

"Ah, yes. The mounting bracket," I said.

Have a good week.

 
 
 

 

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