DEAR SIR: On a recent television sports program two announcers agreed that hiring a new football coach would mean "notoriety" to a school's team. The word was repeated several times. According to my dictionary, notoriety means the quality or state of being notorious. Has frequent misuse changed the accepted meaning of the word? - Wayne T.
ANSWER: Maybe those announcers are just slow learners. At one time to be notorious meant to be well-known, but now - at least in this country - notoriety has definitely unsavory associations.Unless that team wants to get a reputation for being mean, mean, mean, it probably wouldn't want to be considered notorious. Your announcers would have done better to say the coach would bring them fame, or praise, or bowl bids. No one would have misunderstood that.
DEAR SIR: I have been fretting about seeing, in wedding writeups, descriptions of dresses "overlayed" with lace. But now "layed" has appeared in a crossword puzzle. The clue: " into: scolded." The answer given: "Layed." Is nothing sacred? - Sally F.
ANSWER: Probably not, but who knows? It's not enough that we must worry constantly about the difference between lie and lay; now we must worry a moment about the difference between layed and laid.
But at least that is fairly simple. At one time it was perfectly correct to write "lay'd" or "layd" or "layed," but those days are long gone, and now the correct spelling is "laid." Those dresses were overlaid with lace, and if you scolded someone you laid into him.
CATCH of the week, from F.S.F.: "In a story about crime news, my newspaper commented on `America's appetite for grizzly detail.' Please! Just give me the `bear' facts."
Send questions, comments, and good and bad examples to Lydel Sims, Watch Your Language, 366 S. Highland, Apt. 410, Memphis, TN 38111. If you quote a book, please give author, title and page number. Sorry, but questions can be answered only through this column.