Vernacular Spectacular #6: “layaway” vs. “layby”

Can you actually buy stuff on layaway in the United States anymore? The Target. stores here — that’s not a typo, Target here is called “Target.” — have a big sign for their layby section. Don’t these people have credit cards?

This is a weak match-up, because it’s obscure enough it’s hard to rouse much passion for it, but if I did, there wouldn’t be much suspense because the outcome is straightforward: “layaway” has a nice little internal rhyme and “away” makes more sense than “by” for where the stuff is until you’ve managed to pay for the whole thing. I can’t think of a single reason why a place would call it “layby” instead of “layaway” except to signal a backwards consumer culture.

Jeremy’s winner: layaway (far and away)

2 thoughts on “Vernacular Spectacular #6: “layaway” vs. “layby”

  1. I think you’re being mean to layby. “Lay something by” is an existing idiom meaning to reserve something for later. Plus, there’s the by/buy pun, and it’s a syllable shorter. Walmart just had a big ad campaign in the US about how they were bringing layaway back, too.

    Beckie’s winner: layby

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *