November 25, 2016

"Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey..."

That's from the first text that I ran across looking for evidence to support my theory — stated in the comments to "A Gray Walk" — that "grey" is a better spelling than "gray":
I like the spelling "grey" because it expresses the meaning better. The letter "a" looks happier to me — maybe just because of my name — and "e" looks dreary. 
As the commenter who raised the subject observed, "grey" tends to be preferred in the U.K. and "gray" is the American preference. The important thing, for blogging purposes, is to pick one and stay with it. The key is consistency within a single work, and I picked "gray" early on in this 12-years-and-counting project — probably under the influence of Crayola. And looking for a photo of "gray" on a crayon label, I see that I've blogged about this before, in a post with the evocative title "50 Shades of Gary."

Anyway, the quote in the post title is the beginning of "To Build a Fire." Wouldn't it seem less foreboding if Jack London had written "Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray..."?

And test this one, from "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe (whose middle name should have been Allen).

"On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have been pulled out by the roots."

or

"On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of gray human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have been pulled out by the roots."

36 comments:

rhhardin said...

Hoorey.

rhhardin said...

Indian red has had no influence on spelling. It was used for coloring the faces of Indians.

exhelodrvr1 said...

very, very cold and grey!

MadisonMan said...

We read "To Build a Fire" in 8th Grade I think. We also read "Leiningen vs. the Ants", "August Heat", "The Most Dangerous Game" -- all in one little very excellent Compendium of short stories.

Laslo Spatula said...

Gray is a color.

Grey is another colour.

I am Laslo.

iqvoice said...

Hillary's face has looked exceedingly cold and grey since her defeat in the presidential race.

Laslo Spatula said...

I use both spellings.

Anything technical -- devoid of any emotional intent, such as grayscale and gray balance in printing -- I use Gray.

When emotion is overlayed -- a foreboding grey factory, say -- I use Grey.

Same paragraph could be weird. or could explain differences in intent:

"The factory owners decided on a functional gray paint for the lunchroom walls. Afterwards, the workers would walk into the dreary grey room and proceed to eat their meals in a perfunctory manner."

I have to think about that.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Pantone has a series of color chips they call Warm Gray and Cool Gray.

Maybe it would be better if it was Warm Gray and Cool Grey.

PMS Warm Gray 8.

PMS Cool Grey 4.

Seems like it influences the reaction to the name, and the hue you may picture..

I am Laslo.

john said...

My box says "Creyola".

tcrosse said...

Shouls The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit have worn grey?

MayBee said...

Gray looks like it would always be pronounced "gray".
Grey looks like it could be "gree".

Hagar said...

And yet once more we agree.

Hagar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Owen said...

Totally agree. We seem not to be cray-cray to have differentiated grey from gray.

I see "gray" as warm, almost rose-suffused.
And "grey" is cold, slate, steel-toned.

Why is that? I don't recall any early lesson or reading or experience that would account for creating and maintaining that arbitrary and irrational category.

robother said...

"Gray" is too close to "gay" to be entirely grey. The spelling preferences show the cock-eyed optimism distorting American perception.

madAsHell said...

Anyway, the quote in the post title is the beginning of "To Build a Fire."

My children are adults now, but I read that story to them many, many times.

Be prepared!!

rhhardin said...

Gey rights.

Bob Boyd said...

Crayons spell it gray.
Probably so the little ones don't become morose working on a pony picture...or a kitten.

rhhardin said...

Prey and pray.

I don't know what's with show and shew.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

ISTR that Susan Cooper, somewhere in "The Dark Is Rising" series, uses both words and differentiates them. One guy has "gray" eyes, and this isn't the same as "grey." (It's been a looooong time since I read those, as a kid, so please bear with any inaccuracies.)

For me, "gray" is a slate color, almost shading into blue or violet, while "grey" nearly tends towards brown. I'm thinking "grey wolf" here, though of course in the US it's probably "gray wolf" anyway.

rhhardin said...

You can never be sure unless there's an e at the end.

The magic e makes the vowel say its own name.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Grey is anti-American. If we catch Trump using grey, it will be further proof along with his very good marks in school that he's a sleeper agent working in the British Secret Service. Come to think of it, maybe Althouse is to. First they came with the Queen's English...

Original Mike said...

"Anyway, the quote in the post title is the beginning of "To Build a Fire." Wouldn't it seem less foreboding if Jack London had written "Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray..."?"

I see it the other way. Gray is more foreboding and dreary than grey.

Robert Cook said...

I agree..."grey" is the better spelling, and the one I customarily use.

chuck said...

Greetings, agree on "grey" and "e", eet's the wey eet should be.

"On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of grey human hair..." is exceedingly annoying. Which is it: two, or three?

Bob Boyd said...

Greigh

Terry said...

London is supposed to have written "To Build a Fire", not in Alaska, not in the California mountains, but while he was living in Hawaii.

buwaya puti said...

"To Build a Fire" was in our old Catholic school readers (4th or 5th grade I think).
You wont find it assigned these days, certainly not in those grades.

A grey observation.

rcocean said...

"Gray" is too close to "gay" to be entirely grey.

Yes. "Gray" is also too close to "Gravy" and "Hurray"

tim in vermont said...

That's a great point about "gray" and from now on "grey" it is.

Owen said...

Never mind building fires, Jack London almost died of scurvy in the Yukon.

gbarto said...

My car is gray. My childhood cat was grey. If it's natural or living, it's grey.

khematite said...

The Monkees preferred "gray."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SubpzqswJRE

Josephbleau said...

Fifty shades of Gary really speaks to me. An album of photos including abandoned steel mills and eroded canals? Murder and vice? I would buy the two square foot coffee table version.

tim maguire said...

I think I agree with you, but I suspect if you said the opposite, I would agree with that too. If there is a difference, it is swamped by the influence of your suggestion that I should read it a certain way.

Michael K said...

"To Build a Fire" was in our old Catholic school readers (4th or 5th grade I think).
You wont find it assigned these days, certainly not in those grades.


Dead White Male.

I sent my leftist son a set of McGuffey Readers for his older daughter a few years ago. Never got a thank you. but then they don't do thank yous.