Mad Men Don’t Lie
I’m pretty good when it comes to grammar, but my wife is better, as I’m reminded every time I misuse the word lay and she corrects me. Some bad grammar sticks out like a sore thumb for me, but lay/lie misuse goes past me every time. My wife never fails to catch it, and she seemed to be pointing out lay/lie misuse every time we watched Mad Men. We wondered whether it’s the fault of the actors, or if they’re saying the lines faithfully as they’re written.
I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity. If I could catch every use and misuse of lay and lie in every episode of Mad Men so far, surely that would pound the lesson so firmly in my brain that I will never confuse the words ever again.
And so I made the video embedded above. Here is a list of every quote, from each episode in the first three seasons, in the order they appear in the video:
2.10 Joan: “Go ahead. Lay down. I’ll keep the drunks away.” (incorrect)
3.06 Joan: “Go lay down.” (incorrect)
1.10 Peggy: “Maybe you need me to lay on your couch to clear that up for you again.” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “Do you mind if I lay down?” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “I have to lie down” (correct)
1.03 Betty: “I’m going to go and lay the kids’ food out.” (correct)
3.01 Pete: “I should just lay down and we should run together holding hands.” (incorrect)
3.08 Pete: “I’d lie in bed at night, hear horses going by.” (correct)
1.13 Pete: “I think I should lie down.” (correct)
2.02 Don: “I’m going to lie down for a minute.” (correct)
2.12 Don: “Can I take a shower and lie down?” (correct)
2.10 Don: “Do you want me to lay everything out for you?” (correct)
3.09 Don: “I’m going to go lie down.” (correct) [Note: The subtitles for episode 3.09 say that Don says “I’m gonna go lay down” which is incorrect. But it sounds a lot to me like he says “I’m going to go lie down,” so I gave him a pass.]
3.11 Don: “I’m going to lie down.” (correct)
3.12 Don: “Take a pill and lie down.” (correct)
2.08 Ken: “You need someone to lay down on the barbed wire so you can run over them.” (incorrect)
3.07 Henry: “Victorian ladies would get overwhelmed. Corsets and things. They’d need a place to lie down.” (correct)
1.04 Client: “I hate to be a pain in the ass, but if they didn’t just lay there so flat.” (incorrect)
3.03 Carla: “Maybe you should lie down. Sally!” (correct)
2.04 Sally: “Do you lay on top of her?” (incorrect)
2.11 Jane: “I lay on my pillow at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel.” (incorrect)
2.03 Jennifer: “I need to lay down.” (incorrect)
2.04 Katherine: “And I don’t care if you have to lay there. Put your shoes on!” (incorrect)
2.04 Gerry: “I’m sorry, I’ve gotta lay down.” (incorrect)
3.12 TV: “Then Governor Connally, after slumping to the left for a moment, lay on the floor of the rear seats.”
(incorrect) (correct) — My mistake. The reporter is speaking in past tense.
I originally included three clips that I later decided to remove:
In episode 3.01, Sal says, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation,” which is correct. But he’s quoting Balzac so I wasn’t sure if he should get credit for it. In fact, he even follows up the line by pointing out, “That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” (The actual Balzac quote is “Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”).
In episode 3.05, Don uses the same Balzac quote after hearing Sal say it. Again, I was unsure whether or not to include it for the same reason. But I did like that the character he’s talking to replies, “Are you sure about that?”
In episode 3.09, Sal says, “I think if I get away from Lucky Strike and lay low from Roger for a day or two, everything will be fine.” I wasn’t sure if the common expression lay low is grammatically correct or not. So I looked it up. Dictionary.com says that lay low means to overpower or defeat (as in “to lay low one’s attackers”). The phrase Sal should have used is lie low which means to conceal oneself (as in “Until the dispute is settled, you would do best to lie low.”). So Sal’s usage is technically incorrect. But “lie low” falls strangely on my ears, and lay low is a common enough expression that I couldn’t decide whether to give it a pass or not, so I chose to simply not include the clip at all.