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  • Topic

    lace into vs. lay into


    I'm interested in the two verbs

    to lace into s.o./sth

    to lay into s.o./sth

    meaning to attack (verbally or physically).

    It strikes me as curious that two verbs apparently with the same meaning but pronounced (very) slightly differently should coexist. I would be interested to know when they entered the English language. Is one older than the other?

    Thank you.

    AuthorSD3 (451227) 14 Aug 22, 16:05

    I wasn't actually aware of 'lace into'.

    Anyways, like so many things, one is French and the other is Old English.

    lace is from Old French

    lay is from Old English, cognate with legen.

    The 'attacking' part is probably a euphemism that became common.

    'lay' is almost certainly older, because I think pretty much all old Norman French derived English words are from the Norman Conquest of 1066.

    #1AuthorKevin_7 (1308576)  15 Aug 22, 01:07

    Thank you for your response.

    Phrasal Verb:

     lace into Informal

    To attack; assail: laced into me for arriving so late.

    Here's an example from the Washington Post:

    Biden has laced into McConnell on the debt ceiling.

    Generally, I would say "lay into."

    #2AuthorSD3 (451227) 15 Aug 22, 01:42



    7a.transitive. To lash (a person) with or as though with a whip or cord; to beat, thrash.

    1599  H. Porter Pleasant Hist. Two Angrie Women of Abington sig. I4v  I doe not loue to be lac't in, when I goe to lase a rascall.


    c.intransitive. Originally and chiefly lace into: to attack or assault, esp. verbally; to criticize strongly; to lay into.

    1908  Black Cat Oct. 17  She laced into me with all kinds of abuse.


    Etymology of "lay":

    In sense 7 apparently by association with lash v.1

    lay lay into: to belabour; to ‘pitch into’. slang or colloquial.

    1838  D. Jerrold J. Applejohn in Men of Char. xiii  I shall be very go and hold the door, while you lay into the ruffian.

    70 years between the two first citations is not much when you consider that they are just the first written example anyone has found so far. But yes, "apparently by association with lash" is the OED's answer to your question.

    #3AuthorCM2DD (236324)  15 Aug 22, 10:08

    Like Kevin_7, I've never heard "lace into".

    I notice that the dictionary definition and the quotation in #2 are both from American sources, and that in the OED meaning 7c (the one we're primarily interested in) is marked "Originally and chiefly US".

    As far as British dictionaries go, I see that Lexico and Collins have "lace into", while Cambridge and Macmillan don't.

    #4AuthorHecuba - UK (250280)  15 Aug 22, 11:16

    I'd never even heard of that meaning of "to lace". Would have thought it was related to "lacerate", if anything, but they don't seem to be related at all.

    (OT: Lexico is now also going to be eaten by, how annoying)

    #5AuthorCM2DD (236324)  15 Aug 22, 11:42

    Thank you for the additional information.

    Lexico is now also going to be eaten by, how annoying

    Annoying - yes, it is.

    #6AuthorSD3 (451227)  16 Aug 22, 01:01

    ... und das, wo endlich allgemein bekannt ist dass Lexico "the dictionary formerly knows as Oxford" ist ...

    scnr ! :-)

    #7Authorno me bré (700807) 16 Aug 22, 11:00

    "knowN" ;-)

    #8AuthorB.L.Z. Bubb (601295) 16 Aug 22, 11:03
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