Bear with me, and we’ll get to bridge. First, I have to get some pet peeves off my chest.

The endlessly misused word “lay” tops the charts. It’s a transitive word, people. You lay an egg. You don’t “lay around,” you “lie around.” This misstep applies to people who should know better. Joan Didion’s novel Play It as It Lays matched a similarly ungrammatical golf term.

How about “less” and “fewer”? Get this straight: “less money” and “fewer dollars.” The first describes a collective noun; the second a number you can count. Make sure the supporting phrase modifies the subject.

I can’t tell you how many college graduates have said “Couldda went.” They could have gone back to school to study grammar.

It is physically impossible to “center around.”

Mary Norris, the legendary copy editor at The New Yorker, was so distressed hearing “between you and I” that she called her memoir Between You and Me.

O.K., on to bridge. My bridge-version pet peeve is the reluctance of many players to bid 3NT. On the cover of the June 2020 Bridge Bulletin, a woman is playing the game online. Her partner, North, has bid 3♣️; and East has passed. What would you bid holding these cards as South?

♠️ A J 5 4 3
♥️ K Q 5
♦️ K 5
♣️ A 4 3

This is not an easy call. I figured many would bid 3♠️ looking for a fit. If opener denies three spades and rebids 4♦️, they’d go on to 5♦️. Other Souths would simply bid 5♣️ off the bat. Do any experts take either strategy?

I should start with myself as a non-expert. I’d bid 3NT hoping West will lead my shortest suit, diamonds. There’s nothing foolproof here. West might lead hearts, and East could win with the ace and shift to diamonds. That may be undue pessimism.

My editor, Paul Laliberte, thinks along the same lines. He writes, “I believe that 3NT is the way to go here. On a likely diamond lead, declarer is looking at nine tricks off the top: seven clubs, one diamond and one spade. I think declarer has to hope that a heart (or even a spade) will not be led.”

Experts we consulted weren’t worried about a worst-case progression. Marty Fleisher, ACBL Player of the Year in 2013, says, “3NT seems indicated. The best way to look at these hands is to give partner a classic hand: x, xx, xxx,    KQxxxxx.  3NT is basically cold, and 5♣️ is at best on a finesse.”

Philippe Galaski: “3NT would also be my bid.”

Paul Bacon: “I would bid 3NT. Based on the club fit and the likely solidity of partner’s suit, my hand has the advantage of the lead heading my way. It is likely to be a diamond but certainly not guaranteed. This is one to let the chips fall where they may. I do not like the possible diamond losers in a 5♣️ game.”

Bob Hamman, three-time player of the year and multi-time world champion, used to tell players, as Fleisher remembers, “If the choice is bid or pass, bid. If bid, [I prefer] 3NT if it is an option.”

Makes sense. You need only nine tricks to make a 3NT game, as opposed to 10 tricks in a major suit and 11 in a minor suit. Plus, you won’t have to worry about being ruffed. So pull out those 2016 “No Trump!” hats and wear them with pride.