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An Unexpected Addition to the Museum of Failure Exhibition

This past weekend, I went to an exhibit at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles about failure, specifically about ideas, products and services that failed for one reason or another (it’s from the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden).

The exhibit was simple: A product, idea or service, such as the Betamax, the Edsel, the Apple Newton, Blockbuster, New Coke, Bic for Her and the Skipper doll that grew breasts by moving her arm, was displayed along with some text.

Most of the time, the text was humorous, but I found one instance in which somebody made what they thought was a correction.



When I saw this, I laughed (and had my wife snap a picture). Lay is the action word; lie refers to a state of reclining along a horizontal plane.

It’s tricky, and I can understand why many people might think lie would be correct because it’s understood that the writer is suggesting you go lie down on something, but in this case, lay is correct. Had the text read, You might want to lie down on a couch/bed/ground/horizontal plane, that would have been correct, too, but just writing lay down is like saying, “lay yourself down,” which is an action, which takes the action word lay.

That’s no lie. Remember this, and there will be no failure.

Until next time! Use the right words!


January 30, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. My sister and I, both with English majors and advanced degrees (Secondary School English, English as a Second Language, French K-12, Spanish K-12) disagree with your correction of the correction of the Museum of Failure Exhibition sign.
    First, please read the earlier email just above your posting, then its response above it.
    Thank you in advance for your reply.
    I must tell you, though, that we both have enjoyed reading your postings for several years, and were surprised by this one.
    Joan Kelly
    Anne Davies

    Anne Davies daviesrasb@aol.comHide
    To Joan Kelly
    You are absolutely right. “Yourself” is not “understood” in any way. Otherwise “set” would work the same way, and you’d say …Set down over there (yourself understood) both lie and sit are intransitive verbs that take no object. Lay and set are transitive and take an expressed object.

    Thus the prayer…now I lay me down to sleep. “Me” is expressed. Please tell him. He likes to hear from people.

    On Jan 31, 2018, at 3:05 PM, Joan Kelly wrote:

    Anne, he is absolutely wrong on this one! “Lay down” means to put soft duck feathers somewhere!
    Sent from my iPhone

    Begin forwarded message:

    From: usingtherightwords
    Date: January 30, 2018 at 11:01:59 AM EST
    Subject: [New post] An Unexpected Addition to the Museum of Failure Exhibition
    Reply-To: usingtherightwords


    Comment by Joan Kelly | February 2, 2018 | Reply

    • Hi guys. Thanks for the comments. I love “lay down” referring to a duck. I wish I had thought of that.

      It’s good to know you’ve been reading, especially you, Anne. I haven’t heard from you for some time, and I wasn’t sure you were still following.

      I knew this one would get me some responses, which was one reason why I wrote it.

      I’ve gone back and forth on this one. I was sure I had it right, then I wasn’t, then I was, then I wasn’t, then I was. Now, I’m not.

      I went back and looked at the same sources, and it appears you are right. “Lay” takes a direct object; “lie” does not. Just saying “lay down” has no direct object attached, so it would be correct to say, “lie down.”

      The failure is, indeed, mine.


      Comment by usingtherightwords | February 2, 2018 | Reply

      • Hi Lee, I haven’t been getting your posts lately, and don’t know how I fell off your list. I’m happy for this opportunity to resubscribe, since I have the connection again! Joan and I do enjoy reading your blog and often discuss it. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Anne Davies | February 3, 2018

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