Grey or Gray

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Robin
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Grey or Gray

Post by Robin » May 19th, 2010, 11:40 am

Please tell me if I am correct. Grey is used to describe the color in nature, whereas gray is describing the color for non-living things.

ie. Grey wolf, gray crayon.
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Mark
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Mark » May 19th, 2010, 12:13 pm

It's simply UK versus American spelling. In Canada we write the colour grey, down there you write the color gray.

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polymath
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by polymath » May 19th, 2010, 12:17 pm

The Gray or Grey debate rages across the English language writing globe. Both are common and used interchangeably. In U.S. English gray is the generally preferred variant. In British English grey is the strongly preferred variant. Other English language nations follow the British sentiment. Gray: Grey is a topical section in English usage dictionaries, Webster's English Usage Dictionary I know. British standard English usage reference is Oxford Fowler's Modern English Usage Dictionary.

I've not encountered a more contentious area of language debate. One consensus dictates that English is English, there's no such thing as British English. Everything else is a subvariant of English. Another consensus acknowledges that language is a living entity. Prescriptive versus descriptive usage. English is one of the most vigorously living languages.

The only grammar principle I believe applies to grey or gray is consistency. An optional principle; chose according to the sentiments of a target audience.

On the other hand, barring any other cues, the spelling of grey or gray can be a clue of a writer's native origins.
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by bcomet » May 19th, 2010, 2:14 pm

I use grey because I like the way it reads and looks on the page better. It feels more like a colour (color) to me and is softer.
"Gray" seems harsher, less transparent, more anchored in black. This also translates into pigments: grey is a lighter grey with more white in it and more transparency whereas gray is darker gray with more black in it and more opaque. (artist)

If it is a formal name, it is spelled as the family or company or person, place or thing uses it.

Grey is typically British (and the rest of the non American English speaking world) and gray is more typically American.
Colour is typically British (and the rest of the non American English speaking world) and color is more typically American.

Grey is acceptable, I believe, in American English where we tend to lose vowels or traditional spellings that the rest of the English speaking world holds onto. American slang and/or colloquial speech morphs away from proper British to become proper-relaxed American English. (I worry more about what text language and shorthand are doing to corrupt language.) But it seems perfectly acceptable in the English language(s) to choose either British formal or American adapted types.

It's kind of a fun area. Language is considered by some to be a living organic entity that exists and evolves separate from our human control as it morphs over time and semiotics often values language for having important anthropological dimensions.

In the meantime, there is so much emphasis on writers to use language correctly, that sometimes it loses its fun and fluid nature for us while we strive for perfection. The recent topics around eggcorns and homonyms (words that sound alike but have different meanings and different spellings) are either fun or our worst snafus as writers.

I find it a learning experience. My own misuse of words ends up taking me on adventures into better language. And certain studies have shown that some people have theories about language and misuse words because of these, but that they theorize about language shows a higher intelligence, which is also interesting in that dyslexia only strikes people with above average–and sometimes even genius–intelligence.

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Scott
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Scott » May 19th, 2010, 4:12 pm

bcomet wrote:I use grey because I like the way it reads and looks on the page better. It feels more like a colour (color) to me and is softer.
"Gray" seems harsher, less transparent, more anchored in black. This also translates into pigments: grey is a lighter grey with more white in it and more transparency whereas gray is darker gray with more black in it and more opaque.
I feel the same way. Only, I think the "a" does another thing to the word; it "dumbs it down", if that makes sense. Maybe because it's the more obvious option, and seems childish and oversimplified. The color it refers to is anything but.

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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by bcomet » May 19th, 2010, 4:30 pm

Scott wrote: I feel the same way. Only, I think the "a" does another thing to the word; it "dumbs it down", if that makes sense. Maybe because it's the more obvious option, and seems childish and oversimplified. The color it refers to is anything but.
For me, the "a" "dulls" it down, makes it heavy, adds an over amount of weight onto it. Of course, its use is acceptable too. But I like to think of the frequency and energy and sound and music and looks of a word. How it is shaped needs to fit the emotion and character of what I am trying to say or communicate.

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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by polymath » May 19th, 2010, 4:32 pm

I suspect, from reading many 18th century documents, gray became Merriam and Webster's choice because British-American writers used it more often than grey, while Samuel Johnson chose grey because more British writers used it and for its Old English to Middle English roots, g-r-æ-g.

I used to think the reason for differences between British and U.S. English grammar were from an adversarial reaction prompted by period hostilities. But now I'm convinced downstyling rigidity and formality are popular U.S. pastimes.
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Robin
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Robin » May 19th, 2010, 10:00 pm

Thanks you guys! I think the general consensus is 'grey', right?
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Quill
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Quill » May 19th, 2010, 10:06 pm

I don't think I've ever read an American-published novel using "grey". I know it only as the British spelling.

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polymath
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by polymath » May 19th, 2010, 10:52 pm

I've read two novels by U.S. authors with grey, thousands of novels with gray. I notice. I couldn't determine any overriding reason for or against the choice of grey. The best I could come up with was personal preference. Ultimately, the choice lies with an author, and perhaps worked out with a publisher if there's concern.
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Ishta
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Ishta » May 19th, 2010, 11:46 pm

I think that the most important thing is that you are consistent within your manuscript. Just pick one - whichever one you want - and stick with it. It's an easy fix if an agent or editor thinks that a change is necessary.

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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by TigerGray » August 24th, 2010, 7:13 pm

It is my understanding that "grey" is a color whereas "gray" is often a surname of British Isles origin.
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polymath
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by polymath » August 24th, 2010, 7:48 pm

Gray is the conventional U.S. English variant. Grey is the conventional Modern and Middle British English variant as well as other English dialect variants. Traditional Old English variant græg. Artistic nuances and connotation notions notwithstanding, formal writing prescriptively dictates following conventional standards. Descriptive usages only require internal consistency. Gray does prevail in U.S. usages; however, due to the Internet and emerging online style manuals, British spelling, punctuation, and grammar variants are gaining ground on prevailing U.S. variants in creative writing.

The freedom to choose remains with a writer. As a creative writing editor, I only mark for consistency's sake. For academic purposes, I give the above spiel once in a footnote or report, but still leave the choice up to a writer.
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Emily J
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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Emily J » August 24th, 2010, 8:03 pm

I also understood it as gray/grey being a US/UK division. That being said, I do point out when Americans are using "grey" whether or not they want to change it is up to them.

I have also been scolded for using grey, being an American. But have to agree, grey just looks better to me.

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Re: Grey or Gray

Post by Aimée » August 25th, 2010, 12:07 am

I'm American and I use grey. It just looks prettier on the page, I guess.

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