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'lay out in lavender' Options
kaNNa
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:11:58 AM
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What is the origin of 'lay out in lavender'?
thar
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:41:15 AM

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lay out in lavender is apparently literally to make a dead body smell a bit nicer.
lay out is how you present a body respectfully after death. Lavender the plant, nice scent.


metaphorically -

If you mean to criticise - I have never heard that, I don't know if it is old, or regional? anyway, I guess it means 'killed him' (metaphorically)

also, apparently, to show in best light (ie, like a sweet-smelling body, not an odourous one.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/222725.html
Shivanand
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:46:42 AM
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@kaNNa, I have heard it being used as a rebuke. But what thar says makes sense too! We'll have to wait for some more native posts!

Cheers!
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 5:13:40 AM

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Angus
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 8:02:47 AM
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Thar's definition is correct for BE. This is the original meaning, first used several hundred years.ago. In AE, "laid out in lavender" was first used to mean dead in the 1920s. TFD's definition of severe scolding criticism is AE and more recent. It is an example of an idiom acquiring a new, somewhat reversed meaning due to idiomatic interpretation within the original idiom. In this case, "lay out" was interpreted to mean criticize and "in lavender" assumed to be poetic alliteration with no particular meaning.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:07:15 AM

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I must admit I have never heard it, in any meaning, and I consider myself reasonably well read, am more importantly very curious about everything - I notice language I don't know, although my modern English is BE or American TV and film!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:31:47 AM

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I have never heard it either - The meaning of 'lay out (a dead body) surrounded by flowers' is the obvious one, as in "a pocket full of posies".
leonAzul
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 10:42:47 AM

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Angus wrote:
Thar's definition is correct for BE. This is the original meaning, first used several hundred years.ago. In AE, "laid out in lavender" was first used to mean dead in the 1920s. TFD's definition of severe scolding criticism is AE and more recent. It is an example of an idiom acquiring a new, somewhat reversed meaning due to idiomatic interpretation within the original idiom. In this case, "lay out" was interpreted to mean criticize and "in lavender" assumed to be poetic alliteration with no particular meaning.


I can't recall ever hearing this either, but after looking it up, I think Angus is on the right track about the lavender part of it being a nonsense alliteration that goes with whatever colloquial meaning of "lay out" or "lay up" is intended.

There are citations for scold, explain, prepared for burial, or pawned.

The variety of uses makes me think that the lavender contributes as much to the meaning as the definition of violin contributes to "fit as a fiddle."

RuthP
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 11:36:51 AM

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This AE speaker had never heard it either. We do use lay out for the process of preparing a body for burial. It isn't common in conversation now (perhaps a function of where I live), but I would not be surprised to hear comments about how nicely he was laid out at an open casket funeral.

And, I've certainly never heard lay out in lavender as a term for a rebuke, severe or otherwise. Knowing the original source of the term, however, it is easy to see how lay out in lavender could come to be used for a severe rebuke: just yell at 'em til he'd rather be dead!
Christine
Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 1:03:57 PM
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thar
Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 11:55:58 AM

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so, everyone agrees what it means, but no-one has ever heard of it, except kanna, shivanand and the entire internet. Maybe it is an IE thing? Or is that purely coincidence (it seems a very unlikely expression for IE to keep!)
RuthP
Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 3:47:43 PM

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thar wrote:
so, everyone agrees what it means, but no-one has ever heard of it, except kanna, shivanand and the entire internet. Maybe it is an IE thing? Or is that purely coincidence (it seems a very unlikely expression for IE to keep!)

Well, I went looking for it before my first post, and found it Dictionary.com: lay out in lavender, in their slang dictionary,
Quote:
lay (so) out in lavender definition

tv.
to scold or rebuke someone severely. : She really laid him out in lavender for that.

Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw Hill.


I found no reference to it under lie, lay or out in the regular dictionary, though lay out has a meaning of scold vehemently - Dictionary.com: lay.
Quote:
Slang . to scold vehemently; reprimand: Whenever I come home late from school, my mom really lays me out.

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.

Which usage I've not heard either, although it is certainly instantly understandable. I have heard lay/laid into someone as a synonym for berating, as in

She really laid into him for cheating on the exam.
Whenever I come home late from school, my mom really lays into me.
(To steal the above example and rework it.)

This term can also be used for physical fighting. Context tells the difference.
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