Do you write "To check the LAY or LIE of the land." ?
That's a different form, though, you check 'the lay of the land' in my book.
Kenneth G. Wilson (1923–). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.
lie of the land, lay of the land
Both locutions are Standard, meaning “the way things are literally or figuratively positioned with respect to other things,” as in As soon as we get a look at the lie [lay] of the land, we’ll decide what to do next.
'Lie' is more common in Britain, never heard anyone say 'Lay in that context
I'm a BrE speaker and I use 'the lay'- maybe it's regional.
Well, I give in, I had a conversation with a (english) friend regarding this. She said she would pronounce it 'lie' but write it 'lay' !
I'm scots so maybe its a regional thing, it just seems natural to me to say 'lie'
Bob Dylan: Lie lady lie, lie across my big brass bed
Well, that's all cleared up, er...