Karl Hein, of Yonkers, N.Y., read about a recluse who ran afoul of the law and whose “bail was hiked to $250,000 as more burglary charges were laid.” Karl was so confused that he took the wrong exit out of Yonkers and ended up at Curly's Soonerco.
“Searching for a definition of ‘lay' that fit this usage, the best I could do was ‘to impose something as a burden, duty, or penalty,'” Karl said. “Is that correct?”
It sounds close enough to Buck, and it's one of the few questions that gets to the actual meaning of “laid,” which is the past tense of “lay.” Buck usually encounters cases in which “laid” is used when “lay,” the past tense of “lie,” is the correct word.
Like so many short words, “lay” can have an array of meanings that trace back to the literal definition. When you lay something, you place it somewhere. To lie is to recline. “Lay” is transitive, which means you do it to something or someone.
“Lie” is intransitive, which means you just do it. You lay something on the table after which it lies there. You may have laid it on the table, after which you lay down for a nap.