lay of the land, the

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lay of the land, the

The nature, arrangement, or disposition of something, the general state of affairs, as in Once we know the lay of the land, we can plan our advertising campaign. A related expression is how the land lies, as in Let's be cautious till we know how the land lies. This usage originated in Britain about 1700 as the lie of the land and is still so used there.
See also: lay, of
References in classic literature ?
I may be able to see how the land lies, without so much as saying a word
Well," he said, as he lit her bedroom candle for her, "when we all meet on the Parade tomorrow, we shall see, as our nautical friends say, how the land lies.
On Samaras, linked with a move to Hull, Lennon said: "Again, we need to speak to his representatives and see how the land lies.
I am not going to university with any real objective other than I like France, the culture and the language, and I will just see how the land lies when I finish.
We know how the land lies, we're not lying to ourselves, we are in a relegation battle.
Attracting foreign PR experts in the jury is an opportunity for all of us to see how the land lies, and to stimulate the development of the PR market in Bulgaria," stated BAPRA Chair Maxim Behar.
He's gone over there for a week to see how the land lies and whether to sign a contract.
However, the only way to find out how the land lies is to make a direct approach.
There will be one or two who probably know how the land lies, even though they have been very professional and have kept on training properly.
The Galpharm midfielder's loan stint is now up, and Ritchie hopes to speak to Grayson as soon as possible to see how the land lies with regards to a possible permanent move.
Employers who aren't sure how the land lies need to acquaint themselves with the law quickly, as HMRC won't be taking any prisoners.
One loyalist source told us: "He has gone to ground until he sees how the land lies in the organisation's power structure.
The London Financial Times reported on 27 October that the airline was holding exploratory talks with the two other carriers about joining the SkyTeam Alliance, but British Airways has stated only that 'The talks are to see how the land lies.
Given all of this, I can certainly understand why you might be tempted to wait and see how the land lies - after all, by the very nature of your question you're clearly not in any tearing great hurry to move.
Go ahead and approach him casually, such as suggesting going for a coffee, and gently find out how the land lies.