Humor Medicine Surgery

Snow White and the Seven Surgeons

Just so you know, I claim the title of Mopey. Either that, or Sleepy, even though I’m not a trauma surgeon or OB/GYN.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

23 replies on “Snow White and the Seven Surgeons”

“…don’t sit down when you can lay down, and don’t lay down when you can sleep.”

Lie down, goddamit. Lay requires an object in that tense. *swears to self*

A high school teacher taught lie/lay very effectively. “Lay” means to ‘put out.’ If you came in on Monday and said you ‘laid out’ in the sun, she asked if you ‘put out’ in the sun. I haven’t forgotten that for more than 20 years.

My high school teacher’s memory aid was even easier: Objects lay, people lie.

But, Betty, while maybe no one should have “laid out” in the sun, I think you do “lie in the sun” and the past tense would be “laid in the sun”, just without the “out”?


Anyway, Mopey, it’s amazing you have time for so much logorrhea (but glad that you find it).

A book title from Richard Lederer: “Sleeping dogs don’t lay.”

Sorry, don’t mean to bitch on the week when we should be endlessly rejoicing that the anti-vaxxers have been exposed as frauds – again, but much more publicly this time.

(Except that on a friend’s Facebook post, where a bunch of us grumbled about this ridiculous scare and the role of people like Oprah in promoting it – only to have someone jump on and lecture us about how vaccines have horrible side effects, and they’re just a crapshoot, and they aren’t effective, and… jesus tapdancin’ christ, send her back to the time of polio and smallpox and ask her how she likes ’em.)

Can’t objects also “lie?”
“The winding river lies at the base of the canyon.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

“A mother lays her baby in his crib.” Right?

OOPS! This medical blog has been hijacked by a grammar discussion! Sorry, Dr. Orac.

I am an RN currently on hiatus to be a SAHM. This relates to my own career because I fled the chaos of the med-surg floor for the orderly and more focused OR dept. This is one department that cannot function unless it’s properly staffed. Someone may not be available to relieve you for lunch or a break. But I prefer this any day to the anxiety of being responsible for more patients than is humanly possible.
Surgeons are definitely characters! I’ve encountered my share of “Sleazies.” Raising a stink about having to listen to their dirty jokes is just not a wise career move. The nurses who can provide an eloquent comeback rule! This was something I learned from the seasoned nurses that they just don’t teach in school.

Laursaurus is right. ‘Lay’ is the causative form of ‘lie’. To lay something somewhere is to cause it to lie there. Similarly:

Rise –> Raise (cause to rise)
Sit –> Set (cause to sit)
Fall –> Fell (cause to fall, archaic)

Not all causative verbs in English involve vowel alteration. Compare:

The boat sank.
John sank the boat. (cause to sink)

The stockings hung near the fireplace.
The children hung the stockings near the fireplace. (cause to hang)

No, we’re talking about “to lie” vs “to lay.” Intransitive vs transitive.

Laursaurus is mistaken about the meaning of “object.” Roadstergal isn’t saying that objects cannot lie; she’s saying that the verb “to lay” requires an object: “lay down the law” in which the phrase “the law” is the object. Lay down candles in the rain–candles are the object. But it is incorrect to say “You can lay down on the couch.” “The couch” is not an object; it is part of a prepositional phrase. Try instead: “You can lie down on the couch.” People get confused because the past tense there is “lay”: “She lay down on the couch when she got home from work.”

Anyway, language changes and although it grates on my ears, it’s likely that in the not-too-distant future, the confusion between the intransitive and transitive verbs will become accepted usage.

Fall –> Fell (cause to fall, archaic)

You mean we can no longer fell trees? Why wasn’t I informed?

I blame Bob Dylan who, way back in 1969, wrote:
However, that was poetic licence (or is it license?…uh, oh, here we go again!).
And let’s not start on how American’s have substituted ‘z’ for ‘s’ (I trust you recognise what I am referring to)


You mean we can no longer fell trees? Why wasn’t I informed?

Why should you have been informed? Are you a faller?

I knew someone who was a faller. He quit and got a forestry degree because he could see the day coming when there would be no more trees to fell.

Are you a faller?

No, a feller. Have been for ages. Why, I even remember that when I was very young my father called me a “little feller”.

I knew someone who was a faller. He quit and got a forestry degree because he could see the day coming when there would be no more trees to fell.

Being a faller is a very dangerous profession, that’s why it was very well paid. But it does have a high mortality rate. That’s why the logging companies worry that there won’t be enough fellers willing to work as fallers. They might have to contact a temp agency for fillers.

Re Bob Dylan: Lie Lady Lie would have a much different meaning (but it still would be an interesting song).

Was Paul Simon grammatically correct in The Boxer?

You know, lie lie lie…lie lie lie lie lie lie lie.

T. Bruce McNeely:

Re Bob Dylan: Lie Lady Lie would have a much different meaning (but it still would be an interesting song).

Wasn’t that a song about a dog, specifically a Golden Retriever?

Hippie is the laid back surgeon who listens to Tales From Topographic Oceans during surgery.

*bestest Cheech Marin voice*
Wow man…like that’s really far out and cool man…

Excerpt from the Missing Verse to Lay Lady Lay:

“Good girl, Lady. Good poochie-po­o! Who’s a good Doggie-Dog­??? Why it’s you, Lady!”

I guess it didn’t scan right or something.

then there’s Creepy. who really should be a pathologist but who still works surgical rotation . . .

The worst for me is “affect” vs. “effect”. Some very well seasoned epidemiologist still ask (in writing, even) what the “affect” of an intervention will be on the population in question. I’ve been known to reply that interventions don’t have feelings, people do… And maybe dogs.

Don’t forget the surgeon “Grammy” The pedant…….. doesn’t care how many you maim, as long as you spell the coroner’s name correctly.

While smoke in itself can be an interesting subject matter, Graham points out that in his photos, the smoke itself isn’t the subject matter, it is merely the tool used to create unusual photographs: “I am not trying to create pictures of smoke; I am trying to create pictures by using smoke”.

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