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Re: To lay a ghost to rest

Posted by Smokey Stover on November 20, 2004

In Reply to: Re: To lay a ghost to rest posted by Bob on November 20, 2004

: : : The New York Times recently included the phrase "President George W. Bush has put to rest all the ghosts of his father's one-term administration". This's probably a corruption of the expression "to lay a ghost to rest". Can someone offer it's true definition and suggest it's origin?

: : I haven't found anything specific yet. But I'm sure somebody somewhere has done a paper on the use of ghosts in literature. As in the ghost of Hamlet's father and the ghosts in "The Christmas Carol."

: One component of a belief in ghosts is that they are doomed to wander ceaselessly where they used to live because of unfinished business, or un-avenged injustices, and so forth. So when someone among the living rights the wrong, or settles up affairs, the ghost is released from his ghostly state, and can finally gain his/her rest in a comfy coffin, heaven, or a condo in Barbados.

Put to rest, lay to rest, lay a ghost. The OED distinguishes them, s.v. lay. "I. To prostrate.
3. a. To cause to subside (the sea, a tempest, a cloud of dust, etc.); {dag}to put a stop to (an annoyance) (obs.); to allay (anxiety), appease (anger, appetite, etc.). Now arch. or dial. exc. in to lay the dust.
b. To prevent (a spirit) from 'walking'. Often in fig. context.
1592 SHAKES. Rom. & Jul. II. i. 26 To raise a spirit in his Mistresse circle,..letting it stand Till she had laid it, and coniured it downe.

II. To deposit. ...
8. c. to lay to sleep, asleep: to put to rest; to put in the last resting-place, to bury; also fig. Also to lay to rest, {dag}abed, {dag}to bed.
a1300 Cursor M. 14199 Lazar vr freind es laid on-slepe." SS