0

In the movie "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nicholson, there is a scene in a diner in which the character played by Nicholson has difficulties ordering food because the waitress that works there is very particular as to what he can order, and she isn't allowing him any leeway with adding or holding anything he can have. This is a link to the scene on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wtfNE4z6a8

The sentence I've difficulties with is uttered at the end of the scene (and the video I provided) after the characters leave the diner and are driving in a car.

"Fantastic that you could figure that all out and "lie that down on her" so you could come up with a way to get your toast. Fantastic!"

The only definition for "lie down" which isn't literal( meaning prostrate) I found is:

"lie down"

  1. to accept without protest or opposition (esp in the phrases lie down under, take something lying down)(Collins Dictionary)
6
  • It's not very idiomatic. Most people would at least change the verb to lay (lay (something) on (someone or something) = 3. To impose or foist something on someone or something.), and we don't normally include preposition down in contexts like Don't lay that on me! (Don't subject me to that). One of the characters has obviously been giving the waitress a hard time / putting her through the mill trying to make her serve him a non-standard meal. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:18
  • Note that in contexts such as I've just had a great idea! Let me lay it on you, the sense is explain it to you rather than subject you to it. But that's usually Let me lay it out for you. You cited speaker might have been more idiomatic and more accurate if he'd used out there, (as per preceding figure that all out), because it seems likely to me the intended sense here really is "explain" rather than "subject". Besides which, it would more naturally be figure all that out, so don't assume this character is a guide to natural Anglophone speech. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:28
  • @stangdon 13 on sorry, corrected allready Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:36
  • @FumbleFingers - I note that one version of the script has her saying Fantastic! That you could figure all that out, and lay that down on her, to come up with a way you could get your toast. I don't know how reliable that script is, or maybe the actors improvised, because just a bit later, the script has Palm Apodaca saying I **would of** just punched her out. and I clearly hear the actor say' woulda'. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:36
  • Lots of people say would've = would have in a way that's indistinguishable from (syntactically invalid) would of. But if I saw that in a subtitle, I would always take it as a failure by the subtitler. You might just about use it as "eye dialect" in a more literary context, to alert the reader that a character is not "well-spoken". But subtitles aren't "literary", so things like that are completely inappropriate. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:49

1 Answer 1

2

The speaker is using a variant of a colloquial American expression, to lay something [down] on someone, meaning to (often verbally) give someone a hard time, cause them some kind of difficulty, or accuse or suggest that they are responsible for something. She has instead used a different verb 'lie' which doesn't really fit, because it is intransitive. Native speakers often confuse 'lay' and 'lie'. This may be partly because 'lay' is not only a verb in its own right, but also the past participle of 'lie', meaning to arrange oneself horizentally, e.g. on a bed.

lay on

phrasal verb of lay

INFORMAL

require someone to endure or deal with a responsibility or difficulty.

"this is an absurdly heavy guilt trip to lay on anyone"

(Oxford Languages)

6
  • I'm upvoting because I agree with you this is what the cited text "should" mean. But I think it's badly written, and that's not the meaning the character would have intended to convey. He's expressing amazement at how deftly his friend rattled of a complicated way of placing his meal order so he could get exactly and only what he wanted, despite the fact that what he wanted wasn't explicitly present as an option on the menu. Yes, arguably the waitress is being subjected to his tortuous ordering logic - but the relevant aspect is that the logic was explained to her at length. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:35
  • @FumbleFingers - the speaker, 'Palm Apodaca', played by Helena Kallianiotes, who was born in Greece, is female. She is a 'filth-obsessed lesbian hitchhiker' picked up by the Jack Nicholson character. Throughout the film, the dialogue is distinctly colloquial in register, and I am not sure if Kallianiotes' little deviations from the script are improvisation or because her first language was Greek (she went to the USA aged 10). She has a slight but detectable accent. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:41
  • @Michael Harvey Is the preposition "down" in this phrase common? Can't find it in any of the definitions for this word in any dictionary. Also, there is another definition for this phrase I found: (lay something on someone) ​INFORMALto tell or show something to someone, especially when you do not expect them to like it Okay, I’m ready for the bad news. Lay it on me. This one seems to fit even better. Is it possible that's the one she uses in the movie? Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 19:07
  • @StaticBounce - she says 'lie that down' in the movie. You can hear her. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 19:28
  • 1
    @StaticBounce: It's not really a matter of "correct". But idiomatically, nearly all native speakers would use lay rather than lie, and they wouldn't include down, as pointed out previously. The fact that the actress isn't a native Anglophone may be relevant here - but a film set isn't exactly a natural place for "relaxed colloquial conversation", so you shouldn't assume some usage is "normal / common" just because you heard it in a movie. Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 12:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .