Jeopardy Writers Misrepresent Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

“Lay,” NOT “laid,” Jeopardy writers!

 

 

On the February 16, 2016 Jeopardy episode, one of the categories in Double Jeopardy was “Women in Poetry.” The $1200 clue references one of Poe’s poems:

Poe wrote that he laid “down by the side” of this maiden
“in her sepulchre there by the sea, in her tomb by the sounding sea.”

 

This is what the Jeopardy writers should have written:

Poe wrote that he lay “down by the side” of this maiden
“in her sepulchre there by the sea, in her tomb by the sounding sea.”

The verbs lay and lie and their past forms are frequently confused in speech and informal Web comments. So many speakers get these verbs wrong—including those who should know better—that the distinction may disappear in another generation or so.

At present, however, most respected style guides maintain the distinction between transitive lay and intransitive lie.

lay transitive verb meaning “to place or put”
Present tense: lay
Past tense: laid
Past participle: (has) laid
Present participle: laying

lie intransitive verb meaning “to recline.”
Present tense: lie
Past Tense: lay
Past Participle: (has) lain
Present Participle: lying

The response to the Jeopardy clue is “Who is ‘Annabel Lee’?”

In the poem, Annabel is dead and her grieving lover lies beside her. Here’s the last stanza:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her sepulchre there by the sea—

Unlike the current crop of Jeopardy writers, Poe knew the difference between the verbs lie and lay.

Postscript
I know that I’m beating a dead horse. One of the first posts I wrote for Daily Writing Tips was on the topic of lay and lie. I’m still writing them:

July 9, 2007 Lay/Lie: Moribund But Not Dead Yet

December 30, 2008 Mixing Up Lay and Lie

October 1, 2013 Lay vs Lie—What’s So Hard?

July 22, 2015 Mistakes With Past Tense Forms of Lay and Lie