I have been neglecting the wordfeasting of late, I have realised. So I thought I’d come back with a bang, so to speak. (Pun will become clear later. I hope. Otherwise you’ll just stay confused!)
It all started when I was reading some pages from a draft of a friend’s novel. It was a very dramatic scene, in which the protagonist was holding his lover in his arms, unconscious and bleeding and looking near to death. (In case you’re wondering, it was his lover who was unconscious and bleeding. It’s very hard to hold anything when you’re unconscious. And I, at any rate, tend to lose my grip on things while bleeding. It’s the sewer’s and cook’s instinct not to bleed on the product. But I digress…)
Anyway, it was very moving, until I came to the bit where the writer had inadvertently said (it was a draft, remember) that the unconscious and bleeding one was lying prone in his arms.
Now, many people might not have thought anything of it, as prone is often used to mean ‘lying down’. But it actually means lying on one’s stomach. So suddenly, this terribly moving scene was invaded, in my head by a mental image of the hero holding his love face down as she bled out.
The tender-hearted of you will be glad to know that I pointed this out to the writer. I couldn’t in all conscience let her proceed, only to have every doctor (say) who ever read her book, burst out in inappropriate giggles in the middle of her death scene. (I say doctor because I have found they tend to be both familiar with words with Latin roots and particular about distinguishing between fronts and backs of people.)
But it led me into the whole question of lie and lay down, which is a splendid bouillabaisse of complexity at the best of times, further complicated by the fact that usage differs depending on which bit of the English-speaking world one comes from. I did think about laying (ha!) out some rules as I see them, but should I ever screw my courage to that sticking place, it will take a whole separate post, so I will refrain here.
Except to say (see how well I refrain!) that ‘laid’ has developed a whole new meaning in recent times so must be used with caution, even in conversation. It is unfriendly to cause one’s mates to snort into their Cosmopolitans if all you meant to say was that you went to bed. (Okay, so it wasn’t a VERY good pun!)
So in the interests of avoiding sniggering, here is a cornucopia of words for rendering oneself other than vertical.
Repose, recline, sprawl, rest, loll (not the same as LOL, young persons take note!) couch, laze, lounge, settle, subside, drape, sink, relax, droop, retire, stretch out, pass out, faint, take the weight off, put one’s feet up.
Can you think of any more? Please tell me if you do. My friend has to get her heroine turned over before she bleeds out… 😉
PS – the adorable baby (prone) is from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net. The dog is mine.