Sunday, July 18, 2010

Laying aside the 'lay-flat' collar

Some time ago I saw a TV commercial for Hanes, featuring Michael Jordan on an airplane with a lesser-known person sitting next to him. The joke is that another passenger, seated across the aisle, keeps glancing over and the guy who's not Jordan thinks this other person is looking at him (not-Jordan) rather than at the former NBA star. The non-Jordan quips to Jordan about the other passenger having "bacon neck"—a term I suspect made up by those in the Hanes' marketing department not by actual slang—which refers to the way the other passenger's undershirt collar curls up in a manner resembling cooked bacon. Both non-Jordan and Jordan sport the Hanes "lay flat" collar on their undershirt, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of "bacon neck."

(Click here to go to the video.)

For me this unavoidably elicited a particular reaction, but not so much an insecurity about my collars that would spur an impulse to buy new undershirts. No, it was the impression that the marketing department at Hanes lacked anybody who paid sufficient attention in English class to chime in at the naming meeting and point out collars would not lay flat but lie flat.

Later I saw another Hanes spot in the "bacon neck" series where the other passenger is behind non-Jordan waiting for the lavatory on the plane. The former brings up how he heard the latter discussing the lay-flat collar with Jordan.

(Click here to see this video.)

The other passenger politely identifies that, technically, it should be the "lie-flat" collar. When non-Jordan asks "Says who?" the passenger replies, "Well, actually, grammar says." Then non-Jordan retorts that Michael Jordan (alluding to the unfeatured star) did not make "lie-ups" in his NBA career.


Because my brain is inclined to ruminate on such things, before even seeing the first commercial, I'd been thinking about the way "lay down" had gained such prevalent usage in common parlance when what the speaker/writer meant "lie down" that we'd reached the point where the "grammar police" abandon the quixotic effort of correcting the general public about "lie" versus "lay."

It wasn't that I thought it right to throw in the proverbial towel; it was that it wasn't making those misusing "lay" change their ways at all—quite the opposite, as best I could figure. It only annoyed the misuser and made the corrector seem like a condescending jerk.

Perhaps this concession implicit in the second commercial where the "proper" usage was acknowledged (even if not accepted) signaled it's time we reconsider this situation.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it should be "lie-flat." Morons.

    I would never use the term "bacon neck" anywhere. Especially in female company, or it would earn me a punch in the face.


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