In Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the "ambiguous rogue" (I saw this phrase somewhere and it's my favourite description of the character) Long John Silver frequently uses the phrase "you may lay to that", essentially meaning "you may be sure of that". I'm interested in the implications and history of this phrase. This forum thread has several competing claims: that "lay to" is a nautical phrase related to laying anchor; that it refers to laying down money as in betting; that Stevenson invented the phrase; that it was an old phrase before Treasure Island. Probably Stack Exchange can do better at laying (ha) out the correct information clearly and backing it up with proper evidence.
- What does the phrase "you may lay to that" refer to - laying anchor or laying money (or neither)?
- What is the origin of the phrase - invented by Stevenson or much older, a nautical term or in general usage?
- Does Long John Silver's use of this phrase (he really uses it a lot) indicate anything about his character?