Let’s start with an email promotion starring Michael Jordan that appeared last week in inboxes around the country, including that of my brother Michael, who forwarded it to me:
“Lay Flat Collar Tees”? I am shuddering as I type those words. Why? Because:
1. A hen lays eggs. A collar lies flat. Unless we’re using the past tense: “Yesterday, my collar lay flat. Today, alas, it lies crumpled in the corner.”
2. Compound adjectives take hyphens. If you must (really? must you?), it’s “Lay-Flat Collar.” (In some places on the Hanes website, it even appears as “Layflat Collar.” That noise you hear? It’s my convulsive whimpering.)
3. It’s a T-shirt, and T-shirts by definition don’t have collars! They have necklines. Here, take a look: “T-shirt: A short-sleeved, collarless undershirt” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition; emphasis added).
In years gone by, I would not be bleating my complaints in lonely isolation; egregious errors such as these would have brought out a horde of outraged self-appointed grammar enforcers. But standards have sunk so low—yes, I said “have sunk,” not “have sank,” because that’s how I roll—that I’ve been hard pressed to find even a peep of protest. Oh, all right, one peep: in a Hanes commercial that mocks a kindly gentleman who dares to suggest that “lie” is preferable to “lay” in this context.
Here’s the best/worst part:
See the first sentence? “A collar that lies flat.” Yes, apparently some heroic copywriter at Hanes couldn’t bear the shame and found a way to insert the correct language into the guarantee. Give that person a raise!
I mean, really. Even a dog can learn the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs.
Cartoon by Harry Bliss.