Gray vs. grey

Gray and grey are two different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world. Gray or grey may be used as an adjective, noun or verb. A simple search of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, other websites or the news reveals content that is spelled according to the country of origin. We will examine the definition of the word gray or grey, where the spelling gray is usually found, as well as where the spelling grey is usually found,  the origin of the word and some examples of its use in sentences.

Gray or grey is a color that is neither black or white. It falls on the color palette somewhere between black and white. Gray or grey is considered a neutral color, one often used to complement a brighter one, though there are many different shades of gray or shades of grey and different colors available. One look inside a paint store will reveal a myriad of gray or grey paint colors designed to coordinate with one’s decorating ideas and blend or contrast with one’s furnishings. Variations among paint color are enormous, the list of shades of gray or grey includes tones of charcoal gray or charcoal grey, light gray or light grey, dark gray or dark grey, pewter gray or pewter grey, dove gray or dove grey, blue gray or blue grey, steel gray or steel grey, ash gray or ash grey, taupe and gunmetal gray or gunmetal grey. Gray may also be considered a silvery color. Many people enjoy the color gray, considering it sophisticated. Others are less tolerant of the color gray or color grey, finding it gloomy or dull. Gray or grey may also be used as a synonym for being aged, referring to the silver hair or white hair of an older person. Gray hair or grey hair is often a synonym for great age. While men and women have used various hair-coloring agents in order to cover the aged color of their hair, going gray or going grey in order to preserve the natural color of one’s hair is becoming more and more common. Gray water or grey water is water that is not suitable for human consumption. The spelling gray is usually reserved for an American audience, while the spelling grey is more common in British English. In the United Kingdom, for instance, grey is the top preference in usage, and appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed. Most English speakers are tolerant of both spellings, and they  are accepted the world over. However, it is best to understand the community that you are addressing.  Both spellings have their origins in the Old English word grǽg, and have existed for hundreds of years.  Grey gained ascendancy in all varieties of English in the early 18th century, but its dominance as the preferred form was checked when American writers adopted gray about a century later. This change in American English came around 1825. Since then, both forms have remained fairly common throughout the English-speaking world, but the favoring of gray in the U.S. and grey everywhere else has remained consistent.

The comparative form is grayer/greyer and the superlative form is grayest/greyest. Both spellings are used for the participles, grayed/greyed and graying/greying, as well as for most of the words and phrases involving gray/grey.  For instance, grey area/gray area, describes an area of law, rights or conditions that do not have clear cut parameters of right and wrong.  The term graybeard/greybeard, refers to an older man with a beard, and gray squirrel/grey squirrel refers to closely related types of squirrels on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Gray matter/ grey matter is an informal term for the brain. Some exception to the interchangeability of the spellings gray and grey are the word greyhound, a breed of dog that is always spelled with an e, and the fish known as the grayling, which is always spelled with an a.


In the video, a man is seen in a gray sweatshirt and ripped jeans walking with a woman who is wearing all black and pink-and-green sneakers. (The Washington Post)

Just 15 years ago, she says, “if you told someone you were going to paint your room grey, they would groan and say, ‘How depressing.’” (The London Free Press)

439 thoughts on “Gray vs. grey”

  1. Americans do not speak or write English.  I think they should just call their language American. 

    • Think about the way everyone speaks. Only American English do you use the muscles in your mouth to speak clearly. Everyone else mumbles. I Have many friends all over the world and I live outside America. Please people open your mouth and use your tongue to speak.

      • Have you ever heard someone from Brooklyn speak English? “Pahk the
        cahhh.” or someone from the south? They don’t speak with their mouth
        open, as you say haha.

        English is a very descriptive and complicated language, I think everyone
        who teaches it/is trying to learn it would agree. We have dozens and
        dozens of ways to say “Hello, how are you?” and they all differ from
        which area you live in.

        • I’m from the south and I don’t mumble ;_; How rude…. I may spit tobbacco at you for this. :)

        • Have you ever visited the South or Brooklyn? Linguistically, I am most clear and I regularly open my mouth to speak I have lived in many areas of the US; primarily the South, specifically Mississippi. Come visit some time and please enjoy a glass of sweet tea or simply stop off at a convenience spot to use the loo. You may be surprised to learn there is intelligent life here in the South.

          My personal rules are: during informal communication with any audience I emoy spontaneous dialects and and a hokey mixture of BrE and AmE; during formal and academic settings I am consistent with whichever English my audience speaks or reads. Evolution of linguistics allows the use of gray and grey interchangeably and Crayola uses ‘a’. As a personal choice I choose to use gray. But what do I know? I’m just from Mississippi.

          • And did you grow up in MS? You didn’t say you did. I grew up in WI and have lived in GA for the last 8 years. I’ve been around the U.S. and world and still have a clean dialect. It’s because I grew up in the midwest, where the majority of the cleanest “American” dialect comes from.

          • I grew up in the Midwest as well. I’ve lived in Oklahoma (twang capital of the Bible Belt) for 33 years and I’ve maintained my clean dialect so well that I was requested to record the pronunciation of the alphabet and all sight words for an elementary school. Obviously because the teachers here couldn’t pronounce them correctly. : )

          • I am from the south, and I actually have been told that I speak eloquent English. Additionally, they added that American English is so much easier to understand. However, I find other dialects fascinating and I embrace the diversity.

          • Midwest, a wonderfully generic dialect, can be one of the clearest spoken AmE you’ll hear. Speaking for the English classes I have sat in on there are a lot of teachers in the area that pride on this fact and ensure to pass it on to as many of the learning ears as possible. One of the most notable points that anyone has asked me coming through Utah and Arizona (family trips) is how I would say “mountain” (mount’n) But in all honesty the clarity in which you speak any dialect depends on you and your strive to be understood.

          • Kimberly, I have a box of 120 Crayolas (the ONLY brand of crayon I respect and use) on my desk at all times. I’m a 62-year-old graphic designer and I sign my legal documents with Crayola Blue-Green, my favorite hue, or black, my favorite color. (Black is not a hue. But it is a color. Another discussion, another time.) The first place I went to find out how to spell gray is my Crayola crayons! (Then I went here to find out why.) If you want a treat, check out how they make Crayolas on YouTube. Better yet, visit the factory. Oh that wonderful Crayola smell!

          • LOVE the smell of Crayolas and the only crayon worth using too. Must also be why I use “gray”? Black is black, grew up under the education of black being all colors and white the absence of. Then I got into color theory during art school and fell into the light and absorption teachings. Color is amazing.

          • If you think trichromacy is interesting you should check out opponent process theory, it is the theory with the strongest connecting between physical processes and observed qualities.

          • The second theory is correct. Black is the absence of all light, therefore the absence of all color. The reason something appears black is because it isn’t reflecting any of the light hitting it back to your eye. The reason something is white is because it’s reflecting all the light to your eye. Same reason black vehicles are hot, they absorb all the light/heat and don’t reflect it like white does. Something “looks” blue because it reflects only the blue of the white light back to your eye. Does that make it all colors except blue? I’ve confused myself, buy t that’s ’cause I’m a Southerner.

          • Something is blue when it absorbs all light but blue and reflects that frequency. White is when all colours are reflected back, and black is when no colour is reflected back. Neither are absences, only behaviors that different materials exhibit when encountering different frequencies of light.

          • Your “opinion” is the greatest elucidation of the [trivial] misnomer “grey” (in my opinion).

          • I agree, I’m northern and live in the south. I think it just kind of matters where you are. I’m currently in tennessee and while I live in a town that is full of intellectual people, I lived in a smaller town full of crazy, dumb people that wanted to work in factories. It matters where you are.

          • Very true, in the “south” a LOT of people don’t speak like they just were out farmin’. I mean, look at Florida. Its the most geographical southernmost state. And most people there act like the’re from California or something. (not being mean, I am originally from Miami.)

          • Do they pronounce “KH” in Boston as German “CH” or as Spanish “J” or as Russian “X”? Because the sound “kh” is supposed to be pronounced that way. :-) Chakis ain’t car keys. :-)

          • Khakis is like the sound of cat not car. That person is doing it wrong to say how they are saying it. It is more like kawkis for car keys or kahkis for car keys. Khakis is pants. Same thing as for Par for golf, and people say Paw or Pah instead.

          • It would be pronounced “KAKkee,” rhyming with wacky. To my ears, the Boston accent is a bit broader, Brooklyn (a/k/a New York) is a bit rounder. I lived in Providence, RI, for 9 years; it’s a combination of the two. Two Providence examples: (1) The Ford, a car, is pronounced “fawd” in Rhode Island. NOT “fahd” – that’s Boston, and not with a rounded “o” sound, which would be New York. (2) The “R” sound, so often satirized in Boston and New York, is different in Providence. Say the letters PSDS very fast and you’ll be about 98% to the way “pierced ears” is pronounced in Rhode Island. (“PSDS – that’s what a guhrl gets at the mwawll. Awnist.”) (Sources: “Fawd” was a license plate on a restored Model T I saw in Providence many years ago. PSDS comes from the very entertaining – and surprisingly revealing – “Rhode Island Encyclopedia.”)

        • Y’all should edumicate youselfs afore y’all classify us suthners as ignant hicks. Translation: Do not judge everyone by your close-minded, often bigoted, outdated, and erroneous stereotypes. Some of us “ignant, backwater hicks” are actually quite well educated. American by birth, SOUTHERN by God’s Divine Grace.

          • you just discredited any level of intelligence you claim to have by uttering the last part of your sentence. You claim to be intelligent, but believe in an imaginary friend, or, even worse, you think if he existed, he;d actually care where you were born. You are arrogant at best and an imbecile at worst.

          • By this reply, I take it you’re an atheist. Which means you must be omniscient to know for certain that God doesn’t exist. You also must believe that life is meaningless, there is no standard of morality and thus live your life according to that belief otherwise you fail at being an atheist.

            Also I think you meant ignorant not arrogant.

          • Arrogant b/c “he;d [sic] actually care where you were born”. Many religions are criticized for being anthropocentric.

          • You, my friend, speak of lack of intelligence because of someone’s personal beliefs or religion? I’d have you know that to be a “civilization” one of the key components is some type of religion. So I guess we’re all “unintelligent” and/or “uncivilized” by your definition of intelligence.

          • Now Mike B, let’s not be ugly. Just because you’re an atheist doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be civil. It was merely a colloquial expression. You’re so smart figuring Meamma Noona out like that from just a colloquial expression. Let’s see if you’ve disclosed yourself to me? Why yes, Mike, you have, you’re an Intolerant, Atheist, Bigot. Without morals or a conscience. Anyone that doesn’t think like you must be stupid. You’re on your way to being a total Sociopath or maybe you’re there. Sociopaths are such loving people.

          • Though I agree and am glad that someone called out that God is an imaginary friend to many, calling Meamma Noona names not called for (though I do understand the frustration dealing with people who refuse to keep their eyes and ears open to logic). However with that said it would behoove a great many on this chain to look up the current information available on evolution. Though it may be hard at first to grip, yes it is true, we didn’t just appear on this earth in a poof. And yes many civilizations had a religion, but that proves the opposite point, that like your God now, give it a few hundred years (give or take) and your God (like so many before it) will be replaced with the next one. The science will amaze and at the same time scare you if you allow yourself to step outside of the thick bubble you are trapped in and realize the information is out there, as uncomfortable as it might be at first, you owe it to yourself to look it up.

        • Pahk the Cahh is a Boston not Brooklyn accent.. If you are going to dish on our language at least have the brains to use the proper locations to define your point, because making a point with wrong information only makes you look more ignorant then you already are!

        • Don’t forget lunch, dinner and supper.
          Some places have lunch at noon and dinner at night.
          Others have dinner at noon and supper at night and
          others have lunch at noon and supper at night.

          Don’t forget “warsh” for ‘wash’ that’s an east coast one, primarily New York, Long Island.

          • Getting into local word usage is all kinds of fun. In Rhode Island, a “cabinet” is a milk shake elsewhere (milk, ice cream and syrup shaken or blended in one of those old-fashioned lunch counter machines. I am told that unfortunately the younger generation in Rhode Island is abandoning the use of “cabinet” in favor of milk shake; another colorful localism bites the dust! Also, re: southern speech, a lot of phraseology often sounds very casually poetic and very refreshing to these northern ears.

        • This isn’t a good metric to measure how complex a language is: I can show you in several languages dozens of ways to say many things, not just “Hello, how are you?” sentence. English isn’t hard. In fact, it’s one of the easiest languages over the whole indo-european language root. I can easily say that even with grotesque grammar flaws, it’s still possible to understand the one message, which isn’t possible in many other languages (to stick in the indo-european ones, we can say Portuguese, Polish, Romanian and even German).

          I can agree (in parts) if you say that English is a hard to speak language, once there’s lots of words with slightly different pronunciation meaning sometimes even opposite things.

          Don’t let your view about a language be biased just by accents and slangs, this is a pretty common thing to happen and it happens in any language in any single place around the world.

        • Your idea of the way southern people talk is completely wrong. The only southern people you can’t understand to well are the Cajuns and creole but they speak French/American English. While we all speak the same language we all have different dialects. Where everyone I know down in the south says “grey” I say “gray.” If you really want to talk about people who you can’t understand you need to focus on the black people who say words such as “scrawberry” or “skraight” that isn’t English that is stupidity. Every language has many ways to say everything. In the Spanish-language there are multiple ways to greet someone. So please get your facts straight.

          • For the most part I’ve found that the southern drawl is the confusing part. To most people north of MDL it sounds like sounds slow, when in reality southern people speak very fast. The words tend to slur together and unless you used to that it can take time to fluidly understand conversations, same with any other accent whether another American varietal or foreign.

        • I’m sorry, but I’m from Texas. I have only left Texas two times in my life, yet I have not a southern accent. I have been asked where I’m from on Many occasions, because I don’t sound ‘southern’. I have almost no accent at all except an American accent. I mean, I am told constantly that I can’t be from the south because I sound slightly northern or they don’t hear any regions accent. Not everyone from his/her region has that accent. It has a lot to do with personality, or if they play around with the theatre and use other accents. It also has a preference factor. I prefer to say cabinet like Cab In Net instead of CabNit like most of those I know. I use all of the muscles in my mouth to over enunciate my words. A thing that choir has taught me to do.

      • Are you insinuating that the majority of Canadians mumble as well? I think that is a pretty broad stroke you are taking to say that Americans are the only ones in the world you don’t mumble. Mumbling has nothing to do with where you are from or what language you speak. I can assure you that there are Americans who do not come across very clearly when they speak. That is an insanely generalized statement.

        Also I don’t like all this talk about what is proper English. Yes there are certain differences in grammar between countries which have evolved. But if you want to start talking about the spoken word then that is a completely different story. Within a country language can be very different as well. I don’t think you can say American English or Canadian English or British English. Language is regional. Yes within a single country there is a certain structure that is similar but people can speak very differently between states or provinces or even towns. It is ridiculous to make inferences about proper languages when you are purely speaking of regional differences and not actual basic grammatical structure.

          • “Canadian” is not a subset of any race. It is a nationality. As in, where you were born or where you reside. “American” is the same.

          • American, is a large generalization if you’re considering nationalities. United States of America (U.S. of A) citizens, Canadians, Brazilians and Peruvians, could all technically consider themselves American. USA didn’t incorporate the phrase into their political system (a decision that still sees debate today) until the late 17th century -and even then it was a means to refer to all of the Americas (as in they are independent residents/settlers of the Americas) :)

            Going farther back in time, it actually refers to the first title given to the Native inhabitants of the ‘New World’ (early 16th century.)

            As for Canadians (speaking from an East Coast POV) -we tend to talk fast -which isn’t necessarily mumbling. Just ask us to repeat ourselves if it flows by too quickly for you to tune in.

          • Well, I DID say “As in, where you were born or where you reside”. Someone who lives anywhere in the Americas, including those in Canada are “Americans”. The point was that Canadians are not a race unto themselves (and in fact can call themselves “Americans”. However, most people, for better or worse, think of “Americans” as residing in the United States of America). I think I made that fairly obvious. .

          • You did make it fairly obvious, even more so by your astute follow up (which holds an accusatory tone.. if written language CAN be considered accusatory)

            I was merely providing a little back story on when these nations gained their titles. When one says America, they are in fact referring to one of two continents, not the nations that reside within those continents.

            All things aside, it makes more sense that we all get a better handle on our geography and start referring to places on a regional basis. It can get a little grey when large areas of land are used to identify a people.

          • Re: “Americans,” when I hear Canada use the term, it tends to be in the compound “north Americans.” Mostly I hear “Canadians.” (My mother was Canadian, by the way. She was also an English teacher in both Canada and the US.)

            Speaking of races, I think we can agree that the first inhabitants of the continent are of a different race than the Caucasians who subsequently settled it. That said, I much prefer the Canadian term “First Nations” to the US term “Native Americans.” I’m a native American; I was born in the US. I rather like the Navajo term for themselves: “the people.” Works for me.

            Not to disparage anyone; no political stance is implied, just some observations.

          • ummm… hold on a sec – I don’t think the USA incorporated any phrases in the late 17th Century – or in fact did anything at all during the entire 17th Century …or am I missing something?

          • Race: Any of the traditional divisions of humankind, the commonest being the caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negro, characterized by distinctive and universal physical characteristics.
            Your dumb ass versus a definition… Think I’ll go with the definition.

          • So with that in mind, don’t you think that the definition of “race” is going to have to change when we encounter other forms of life out there, so that instead of it meaning “traditional divisions of humankind”, it would instead mean “traditional divisions of living, sentient beings”? Otherwise when you have “race riots” against aliens, people will be going “puhleeeez those blacks need to get over the BS already” because the definition hasn’t changed. (Not racist, just an example.)

            And don’t bother countering with “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS ALIENS” because that’s utter BS. The only people that could POSSIBLY believe that Earth is the only habitable planet in the universe really do need to be drop kicked because that makes absolutely no sense.

          • Yes, Canada is part of North America. Canada is also to be known as the United Provinces of America (UPA).

          • Yeah, why would America want free healthcare and peaceful, gun-free communities? Not to mention international acceptance from the entire world. Don’t even get me started on the nationwide high minimum wage either. Darn those Canadians….

          • That would be offensive to Canada and Mexico. And btw, do you mean North America or South America?

          • @Delicious Canada is not “part of America”… We proved that when our ancestors burnt down your White House.

          • You exude none of the charm and politesse that Canadians are purported to possess. And shame on you for using the name of a disgraced, court-martialed hack of a military commander.

          • Pretty sure it was the British who burned down the White House, which would also be our ancestors. So I guess you could say we burned down our own White House. Oh and Canada IS part of America…its called North America. Are you part of the United States? No

          • Canada is part of America, not the United States of America, but America. We Americans (see I did it just then) seem to think we are so important we can take the name of entire continents for our country’s name.(we’re not that important). So sorry to the rest of both of the Americas.

          • So, when a guy who was born and raised in Uganda says “I’m African…” does he think he’s so important that he can take the name of an entire continent for his country name? Or is he simply identifying himself with his continent as many Africans, Asians, Americans, and Europeans do?

          • If he thinks he is important then he says I’m African :-) and Europeans says the same: I’m European. Yet USA America has different than Africa in this case.

          • There are three countries in North America and they are all widely known. Africa has dozens that most people wouldn’t even know existed, so they just say Africa because people would then understand the general area they’re from without getting into specifics.

          • Don’t forget Greenland and St. Pierre & Miquelon, plus Bermuda and Bahamas as well are part of North America.

          • Usaians did not name their country “America” because they think they are the beast. No. They named it “America” because the name is easy to remember… For example: I’m Erica and I’m Canada. :-)

          • No, we do not think we are “the beast”. And “Erica” would not say “I’m Canada” unless she wished to be thought of as a geopolitical part of the land mass of North America. She is “Canadian”.

          • > take the name of entire continents for our country’s name

            Pay a little more attention to how “America” came to have the second meaning “United States of America.”

          • Amerigo Vespucci. His name was used to call Erica America. Yet the “first” was Cristobal Colon (Colombo, Columbus). Thus I’m Erica should have been named as Colombia or Colonia or Columbia. It’s unusual to call a country or a plant by man’s first name. And Cherokee in fact is a misspelling of Tsalagi.

          • You ignore the historical context. We were called by just about everybody, including the Canadians, the “13 British Colonies of (North) America”. The only unified nomenclature we had was “America”. If we had tried to come up with a completely new name we would have been arguing for years. Considering we had to get a country going I think choosing the most obvious name can be forgiven. I mean imagine if Quebec and Ontario hadn’t been called North and South Canada. They would have been trying to shove Versailles and Canterbury down each others throats for years.

          • American, is a large generalization if you’re considering
            nationalities. United States of America (U.S. of A) citizens,
            Canadians, Brazilians and Peruvians, could all technically consider
            themselves American. USA didn’t incorporate the phrase into their
            political system (a decision that still sees debate today) until the
            late 17th century -and even then it was a means to refer to all of the
            Americas (as in they are independent residents/settlers of the Americas)

            Going farther back in time, American actually refers to the first
            title given to the Native inhabitants of the ‘New World’ (early 16th

            Canada, as a land title, can be traced back to the mid 16th century, however for that we can thank French explorers.

          • Hmmm. Prop up false history much? Technically the British did it. British North America (British colony). It was the “Canadian” Governor General who, knowing the British were going to lay siege to America anyways, added fuel to the fire by whining and complaining about conflicts on or around Lake Erie where people were dying (on both sides, I might add). It’s probably not something to be proud of when British Canada couldn’t handle her own internal affairs and had to go crying to mommy Britain and had to beg the British military might to “destroy and lay waste such towns and districts as you may find assailable” and “you will spare merely the lives of the unarmed inhabitants of the United States”. Also, the majority of the campaign went through the Bermudas, a vast distance from British North America. Like usual, “Canada” couldn’t handle their own and had to have someone else do their dirty work.

          • kinda lol. its apart of the continent north america! But not the apart of the country the United States of America.

          • North American continent? Yes. America as in United States of America? No. People tend to use the term “America” for the country, although it could also mean the continent

          • Well, they’re both part of the continent North America, but generally speaking, when one says America, they are referring to the United States of America.

          • America describes two continents. North America is a continent that includes Canada. Please do not confuse “America” with the “United states of America”

          • Canada is a part of North America, what most people mean when they say America is the United States of America which takes up the majority of North America.

          • But.. Canada takes up the majority of North America (3rd largest country world wide.) The United States is the 2nd in North America, and fourth over all.

            You rationale is unclear to me :S

          • Canada is in North America along with the United States. They are different countries sharing the same continent. We adopted the term Americans because we like to forget Canada is up there and assume we are the only country on the whole continent. There is also a South America continent below us with a lot of countries there as well, but most people just call all of it Mexico and move on with their day.

          • This is especially amusing since Mexico is actually part of North America just like the US & Canada… not South America.

          • Yeah but most people never consider it because it’s, you know, South of America! I think as a whole the United States worst subject is geography.

          • There are a whole lot more countries south of Mexico which are still in North America. From Wikipedia:

            The border between North America and South America
            is at some point on the Isthmus of Panama. The most common demarcation
            in atlases and other sources follows the Darién Mountains watershed
            divide along the Colombia-Panama border where the isthmus meets the South American continent.

            It’s easier to call that area Central America, but north of Panama, it’s still North America.

            Haven’t we gotten a long way away from “gray vs. grey”?

          • If it’s on the American continent, it must be American. Of course, no one here is specifying North or South American. All countries on the American continents can be called American. Although we, in the USA, refer to ourselves as Americans and most people infer that to mean USA citizens, technically, any person living in the Americas can call themselves an American.

        • A “race” would have to constitute the subspecies of human species… The differences between Homo sapiens sapiens (modern human) and Homo sapiens idaltu (extinct long time ago) would apply to the word better. It’s a misused word; look it up (and to Qwerty: Your dumb dictionary versus biology and logic… Think I’ll go with the latter

          • I think it can be interpreted both ways.

            In Biology, yes, it can be used for the example you used of Homo sapiens sapiens and homo sapiens idaltu but it can be used to categorize humans .

        • I started reading this and thought, wow interesting. Then i stopped after you started to mumble something about generalizing…

        • example: me and my boyfriend live 10 miles away and his flatmate can tell that I have a stronger accent!

        • There are certain grammatical structures that differ yet are correct – “I want to go” might be what a northerner would say, whereas “I’ll be wanting to go” might be more southern – less direct, more poetic. Not a criticism, just an observation.

      • If you were trying to be funny, sorry, but it didn’t come off. If you were trying to come across as a tosser, you succeeded.

        • Canadians say “a boat” not “a bawt” nor “a bhoot” and not “a bute” and not “a boite” and not “a beut”.

          • It doesn’t matter how you pronounce it as long as you can understand what they’re saying. I’m from Chicago and I say ‘boat’ perfectly.

          • I’ll give you “boat,” but many people I’ve heard in Chicago have a “double A” so that the name Jack comes out closer to Jayack. Localisms are fascinating; many have to do with who emigrated to a particular locale and how some pronunciations from the native tongue have crept into English.

      • Oh yeah I thought about it, and you’re wrong… Americans seems to by-pass the “t” sound any way possible. Go learn how to say “matter” and “daughter” from an English person please. Maybe you’re reffering to English second-language learners, in which EVERYONE mumbles when they’re not confident!

      • I do not believe that it is the fact that everyone else mumbles; other English speakers do in fact enunciate quite clearly. It is the speaking speed that causes this effect. Americans talk quite slowly in comparison to other English speakers. Since we are used to that slower speed, a quicker speaking tempo can sound nearly incomprehensible at times.

        • They speak so much more louder than other English speakers too. When USAmericans are on my TV .. I have to lower the volume.

      • I’m a Briton, thank you very much, from the place that English originates from. I believe that I may know how to speak it clearly and I do. A lot of Americans don’t speak clearly (I’m not insinuating that all brits speak clearly) A lot of people around the world have clearer speaking abilities than some Americans. So I would advise you to not to shove your clearly false and prejudiced ideals of speaking down others throats.

        • Welcome to the internet. It’s a place where a lot of things are being shoved down a lot of others throats. You just have to deal with it.

          • A very good British friend from London and I were discussing another friend who lives about 20 miles northwest of him. I mentioned that the other friend writes beautifully but I had a terrible time understanding his particular regional accent – it was both thick and poorly enunciated. My London friend said that he had a hard time with it too (and that it was a local accent, not a speech impediment)!

      • Try speaking my language… GREEK ! if u think it needs balls to speak american english try speaking greek….Smartass…

      • I’m with Abcampbell33 on this. Not aiming the following directly at you but:

        The assertion that ONLY American “English” requires the use of the muscles in your mouth is an arrogant one. I’m a proud Aussie and we over here most definitely do not mumble our speech. Sure, there are as few exceptions but that’s more due to personal speech patterns rather than as a standard. I’m sure there are similar cases in the states.

        Additionally, I’m all for renaming American “English” just American because they’ve altered the spelling of LOADS of words to be different from everyone else, so why not just consider it its own language?

      • I so totally love this thread. I speak southern californian. I use terms that others dont. I also have a tendency to use inflections when i talk where other american english speakers do not (ex. waaay sorry dude). oh yeah and I dont mumble – i just barely open my mouth when i talk…hard vowels are grody, really disgusting (and i am an expat to boston – “pahhhhk the cahhh” is real)

      • America doesn’t have a official language, there are many different language origins in America, English is just the most popular.

      • I’m from Australia & I travel a lot. I am consistently told by people overseas that my English is easy to understand.
        I think that you’re making an unfair & very generalised (that’s right, I used an s instead of a z) statement about non-Americans. The rest of the world actually doesn’t revolve around the USA. We also don’t want to be like you.

    • How about American English? There is British English, Canadian English, Jamaican English, Australian English, Irish English, Kenyan English, Indian English, and many, many, many, many more. Get over it. 

        • As far as I know, Jamaicans don’t speak any other language but English (except for the ones who have learned another language) so how come are they considered non-native speakers?

          • Well until there is a institute for English internationally like French and many other European languages, telling us what is correct in our language, then they’re speaking English mate. They probably think you speak crap English

          • and i’m not saying i represent a native english variant. there’s proper english spoken by native speakers and there’s ESL which is what the Indians speak. You listen to an Indian and you understand that their vocabulary is weak, it does not flow naturally and they cannot speak it without thinking like native speakers do. they mix in words from their mother tongues. they make word choices which native speakers don’t. their english is usually worse than what a good speaker of english as a second language would speak, how can you call it native? the british commended the americans for mastering the language perfectly when america was founded, ie making it native. so there is a distinction. indians speak pidgin english.

          • Sorry, Ferit, but there are certain standard English pronunciations common to each country where English is spoken as a general language. Within each, there are regional variants; there are also educated speakers and non-educated ones as well as people with greater individual variations than others. That’s just real life. You may prefer one pronunciation over another, but it doesn’t necessarily mean their vocabulary is weak. Also, you may correctly identify a more literate or educated speaker than another; here’s where issues of vocabulary come into play, but it’s an individual thing, not a national or racial one.

            My standard: if I can understand what the speaker is trying to communicate, that’s enough. It is not my job to try to change them, just to understand and in turn to be understood.

            By the way, your uncapitalized writing is kind of hard to understand, too.

          • no, capitalization is not necessary for writing for one thing, don’t try to weaken the other’s side’s argument by personally attacking them. secondly, you must be an indian or jamaican trying to make your pidgin english valid, it’s not. there are native spaekers who speak fluently, without thinking, and with good vocabulary, and there are those who do not speak english at home and do not have good command of it as a nation. just talk to an indian or jamaican vs an irish or white south african and you’ll hear the difference. an irish has the same command of language as an american, an indian doesn’t.

          • You obviously don’t know the same Indian people I do.

            Also, my comment on your capitalization is about how your writing presents itself; I’m sorry if you took it as a personal slam.

          • it is a personal slam because it has no bearing on how you get my meaning. also, why don’t you ask yourself why indian people are not considered native speakers and are required to take the TOEFL?

          • FYI, I voice TOEFL courses for a major training company. I know what I’m talking about.

            I have also invested enough time in this. Good luck and have a good life. Goodbye.

      • In Ireland, the majority of us (those who don’t hold a British identity) speak Hiberno-English. Hiberno-English is heavily affected by the Irish language and this changes the way we speak English.

    • A good rule of thumb for whether two speakers speak the same language is mutual intelligibility. Can an American understand what you have written just now? Then both of you speak the same language.
      AmE is a dialect of English. BrE and AmE are not sufficiently different to be considered separate languages. Take, for example, Swedish, Danish, and both written dialects of Norwegian. These are so close that they can be considered regional variants of the same language. AmE and BrE have more in common than the two dialects of Norwegian, bokmål and nynorsk. The differences between AmE and BrE, especially written AmE and BrE, are incredibly, incredibly minor.

      • “Then both of you speak the same language.”
        You mean they both *write and read* the same language. Spoken language is another matter entirely. There are many people who purportedly speak the same language I do (American English), yet I can’t understand them at all. I use subtitles when watching any movie with British English in it.

    • actually the american way of speaking is the old english way, the english way of speaking changed after america was colonized, so the american way is correct.

      • No, but you are partly correct. The British English speaking changed (as language does, it evolved, this is normal) and so did American English. They just went in different directions. Otherwise, the Americans would still be saying “pantaloons” and all sorts of weird things. The languages merely branched out and both ways are correct to the specific areas.
        I don’t want to be rude, because you do have a point and it is worth considering, but I don’t agree completely and there is something to be added.

      • Another example of ignorance. Brits’ bad teeth is a result of the water there, not their teeth brushing habits.

        • Another example of ignorance. The british have been shown to have the best teeth. They just don’t care about *crooked* teeth as much.

        • ??? okay how is our water different – for us we don’t have them whitened as it isn’t natural and we take the piss out of anyone who does anyway. As said before we have some of the best teeth in the world. I’d only get something done if my dentist said that I needed it, because the NHS doesn’t have the time nor the money (supposedly coughjosiecunninghamcough) for non-necessary stuff.

    • No one speaks ‘English’ in that sense then..or in actuality they do..since English is derived from many languages and dialects over hundreds of years..Frisian..Norman..Germanic..Saxon. It is, in fact, still all languages do. It inherits words from other languages… It is a mongrel..impure..tainted. So, don’t get all high and mighty with your English talk. You’re just reinforcing stereotypes and hate talk.

    • I agree with you, and when asked I have said I speak American for over 20 years now. Not American English, not English, just American. I find it’s the clearest way of defining my speech.

    • Speaking as a rather informed american, I’d just like to point out that not all of us are rednecks. Through comments on my blog, someone from New Zealand had forgotten I was American until I didn’t know what “aubergine” was. Point in case, some Americans speak extremely similar English to British English. So, don’t discriminate. :)

    • We actually call it “Americanized English”. your right, it’s not English .. we just call it English from time to time because “Americanized English” is a mouthful. part of the complexity of out vernacular is our propensity to shorten or combine words and/or phrases that other “English” speaking nations haven’t yet, or wouldn’t at all. Calling it English, though it obviously isn’t English is just another example of out inerrant instinct to speak more succinctly. (and though we do speak succinctly, and text succinctly, when typing and/or explaining something we are often just the opposite… very long-winded)

    • This is incredibly childish, we both spoke the same language, we then split up, at which time the language grew into two distinct forms, both still english, “your” version of english has grown and changed just as much as ours and you need to get that stick out of your “arse”.

    • There is no True English because the language is constantly changing. American English and CANADIAN English (did you really forget they exist?) is actually closer to the accent that was had in the 1700’s, as in Shakespeare would have sounded more like someone from California than he would someone from London currently. In fact, if you speed up the American “southern drawl”, it actually has many characteristics of a common middle class London accent.
      The English language changed more in 500 years than Greek has in 5000. I’d like to point out the American and Canadian pronunciation of Schedule is FAR closer to the original Greek word, while British English pronunciation follows more closely the more recent Latin word. The fact of the matter is British English has borrowed far more frequently from French than American English, even as high as tensions have been in the past. (part of the reason why we both say colonel how it happens to be spelled.)
      Here is a lovely example of how much English has changed;
      Old English (Anglo-Saxon):
      Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
      Si þin nama gehalgod
      Middle English:
      Oure fadir that art in heuenes,
      halewid be thi name;
      ..And you might be able to tell by now that the current common English version is:
      Our Father in heaven,
      hallowed be your name.
      I get that it is all well and good to poke fun at the people across the pond (all sides are guilty of this) but ..when you don’t back anything up with..any given hurt your side more than theirs.

    • Yes, because everyone in the UK speaks the same version of English LMAO.
      Ever been to Wales or Scotland?

    • 21st American English is actually closer in its pronunciations to 18th century British English than is the English spoken in England today. English has actually evolved more on that side of the pond than it has here.

    • This is the same as saying that every place that has a distinct dialect should have a distinct language instead. For example, in the US you would need Southern and Bostonian just to name two or in Britain you would need Scots, Irish, Welsh (though usually these names pertain to the original languages these lands had before the damn Brits took them over) and your so called “English.” These places may all generally speak the same language but the have different accents and have some distinct phrases which, according to you, makes them different languages. That’s completely nonsensical. The same would have to be true for Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and practically every other language out there. Completely idiotic. And while I would rather not share a language with stuckup Brits like you, for simplicity’s sake, it makes more sense.

    • Should Mexicans call their language “Mexican”? Should Puerto Ricans call their language “Puerto Rican”. That’s silly. I agree Spain speaks “proper” spanish and England speaks “proper English”, but there are other peoples that speak these languages with various accents, dialects and local words/meanings.
      I speak Mexican spanish and struggle to understand spanish spoken in Spain – but it’s all spanish.

    • Inane. Should we call other forms of English by similar names, such Australian or Canadian? Do Austrians speak Austrian or German? Most developed languages have dialects, American English can be thought of as a master dialect, with a lot of sub-dialects. The same is true for British English, someone from Liverpool speaks noticeable differently than someone from London, and within Greater London, there are dialects that are even noticeable to backwards Americans. Your arrogance about your particular dialect of our common language is unfounded.

    • Americans don’t speak American. They obviously speak a variety of English. American-English, if you insist.

    • I don’t agree. Although the accents may differ (as do accents in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland) the grammar structure is the same. There are a handful of words that are spelled differently, and an even smaller handful that are completely different (In ratio to the number of words in the English language). Languages do evolve, but English hasn’t evolved enough yet in America or elsewhere to merit being its “own language”.

    • America is a whole continent where plenty of people do not speak English. Also, English has different dialects.. the same as other widely spoken languages. It’s like people from South American countries complaining about how people from Central America speak. Someone from Mexico is going to use a lot of words that don’t even exist for someone from Venezuela, and vice versa. It doesn’t make it any less Spanish.

    • you have a point…
      but then you’d have to remame puerto rican, dominican, and all other dialects of Spanish too

    • Americans dont speak English?

      Let me just forget to pronounce a dozen letters and call it english, ya?

    • The English screwed up several languages and didn’t standardize their spelling until long after America was settled by Europeans. England lost its chance.

  2. Language has evolved throughout time… even and particularly “English”.  You may like to think that the English language you speak is more “proper” than “American” English, but I assure you it is not.  Take a few courses in Linguistics and let me know if you can find a language that has not been butchered to fit the needs of those who speak it.

    • Nowhere in this post was the Grammarist saying anything about who was right or wrong. There was no need for you to take offence.

    • Yes, language evolves, but it takes a lot of evolution to dissociate “English” from England. Perfectly happy to have a new classification of “American”. But “American English” ? I’d really rather not.

  3. I don’t speak or write English or American. I speak and write Tennessean. I have never considered myself “subject to the queens english.” I would guess that America has hundreds of different languages. I was raised a military brat. I met several people who could guess what region of Tennessee I was from by which dialect of Tennessean I speak. Tennessee is really three different states, West, Middle and East. Even within these regions there are different dialects. This is a great thread, I’m glad I foundt it. I’m going to use gray but I would spell the breed of dog greyhound.

    • I am from Mississippi and we have at least 4 different regions that speak with different dialects. The North, Central, Delta, and Coast. North MS (except near Memphis) is mainly hill country where you have some of your generic “country/redneck” accent, Central MS is a mix what I call “Southern City” and “Southern Country”, The Coast is a mix of Cajun and Floridian-Style Southern, and Delta has 3 dialects: Old South Drawl (Gone With The Wind style accent – almost exclusive to those born before the 1940’s), backwoods/uneducated southern, and “black country” accent.

      I have noticed a big difference between Mississsippi and several of my Texas/Arkansas friends. Most(if not all) MS tends to pronounce Night as “N’aight” and TX/AR pronounce Night as kind of a flat vowel sound: “Naaht” (hard to get it write when typing)

    • I have heard, actually, that English as it is spoken today in the Appalachia, especially in the Smokies from TN up through KY, is quite close, in form and structure, as well as accent, to the “Queen’s English” as it was spoken in the time of Chaucer…

  4. As an American I speak many versions of English… Texan English, Cajun English and just plain Southern English… I can even speak in British English terms on occasion. The fact is we speak as spoken to. How many of us can honestly say that at some point in time we have not picked up any “English” terms/words from another area of the country or world?

  5. I’m a bit odd, as I associate different connotations to the greys/grays. Gray is a soft shade, like dove gray. Grey is a harsh shade, like steel grey. I have no idea where I picked this notion up from.

    • I do as well – for me, it has to do with the fact that I associate certain colors with certain letters (I don’t visually see the colors [externally], but I perceive them in my mind), and for me the letter ‘A’ is red, and ‘E’ is blue. This gives ‘gray’ a warmer shade and ‘grey’ a cooler shade in my mind. My excuse is grapheme → color synesthesia (I have other colors for other letters and numbers too; perhaps you may have this as well?).

      • Fascinating discussion this – for me, “grey” always seems softer whereas “gray” seems harsher; it’s that big, round, aggressive “a” dominating the middle. I realise that this is patently ridiculous and probably arises from the former being the familiar form of the word, growing up in Britain, and the latter being unfamiliar, but…
        I agree that “grey” is a ‘cooler’ variant, somehow, which may be a result of low-grade synaesthesia or just the product of my strange mind!

      • I have various synesthaesia too, mostly related to numbers and colour (and a crossover of taste/smell and music, but that’s a different issue). I find “a” (but not “A”) gives me a feeling of a warm, woollen shawl wrapping around me, whereas with “e”, I feel a cold ocean breeze.

      • All of my life I have associated colors with letters, numbers, words and music. I never knew that there was a name for it. I have never talked to anyone who understood it, let alone does it too. Thank you for posting this!

      • For me, the letter ‘a’ is blue and the letter ‘e’ is green; therefore, ‘gray’ = blue-gray and ‘grey’ = green-grey. It makes it very difficult for me to decide which way to spell it when the shade is neither of those. It’s actually very frustrating, and usually I decide to pick a spelling and go with it, but then the next time I use the word in written form, I forget which spelling I chose to use! I think I tend toward ‘grey’ cause I like green better. And I’m with SuzieJo, anyone I’ve explained this to before thought I was nuts. But the color association has actually helped me to remember numbers and how to spell things.

      • Interesting, while I have never associated colors with letters or numbers in my mind, I have always had a never ending timeline in my mind, I associate a different “feeling” with various decades/time periods. It’s just something I “see” when I think of a time. It makes remembering dates really easy – and hence, I have a Master’s degree in history. It’s not the same, but it’s similar and crazy to know other people do that too.

        • Wow Liz I too ‘see’ time. I’ve asked others over the years if they could see time and everyone thinks I’m a bit off. I actually visualize a 3D bar and circle. The bar is on a slope in a void and continues eternally forward or backwards and the circle /wheel rotatates on/along it depening on the day/month. I am always on the wheel (jin my mind’s eye) and visually looking along or across it when planning or contemplating historical events.

          I’ve had this personal 3D calandar since I was a young child. The flat, square, common calendar does nothing for me. Anyone else?

      • How interesting! I had just posted the response below – to Maura’s comment above, before I read your reply. I really had no idea others thought/felt this way. I must read up on this color synesthesia! Thanks!

        …I have a similar notion! I think
        of “gray” as a warm neutral (ie with pink or tan undertones), whereas I prefer “grey” for cool (blue or purple tome) shades.

        From a purely aesthetic standpoint I prefer the look of the word “grey”.

    • The way that I have always associated the variants was according to the usage of the word. I have always thought of gray as the color when only referring to the color itself, but when used as a metaphor or title, I see it as grey. Not sure exactly where this association came from, but it’s been for as long as I can remember.

      • Yes, when it’s used to describe the feel of cold, gloomy weather or the look of someone, for instance, I think “grey,” whereas when it comes to the color itself, I think “gray.”

      • That is so strange. I feel the same way! I always think of “gray” as the textbook middle-of-the-road gray color. But when I think of “grey,” I think of a grey feeling – cool and sad. I think, since I am American, I was taught to spell the color as “gray,” and therefore it relates back to childhood and elementary school. And I’m just taking a guess here, but I probably saw it spelled “grey” for the first time in some foreign literature or poem and they just got stuck in my mind that way.

    • I have a similar notion! I think of “gray” as a warm neutral (ie with pink or tan undertones), whereas I prefer “grey” for cool (blue or purple tome) shades.

      From a purely aesthetic standpoint I prefer the look of the word “grey”.

  6. Neat, but I still like my english, It may be simple, or wrong to many. To me it works, and it works to those around me also. I’m from the south and we may call you sweety or honey and say Ain’t and all of us know where over younder is. So, i’ll just add an a or an e for grey when every I wanna spell gray. Know what i’m saying? (doubt it)

  7. I do 100% . I do the same thing, it depends if I’m at work I’m absolutely professional. However when I’m home I’m just lazy and whatever comes out is what you get!

  8. I think the best way to define correct and incorrect grammar/spelling is in the context of a specific culture.

    For instance, in my view you should always say “different from”. But in England, many people say “different to” b/c that is what they were taught. So they are using correct grammar according to their culture. Same goes for “try and” vs. “try to”.

    Of course, no where in the English-speaking world are people taught to say “he don’t” and “shoulda went” so these sorts of things are just wrong.

    So it really depends on what is taught/accepted in your culture.

    • In Brooklyn we’re taught to say he don’t and shoulda and gett itt. And too everyone else in the world, i just have one message – Speak English!

      • Ha!

        Just to clarify, I was not picking on reducing “should have” to “shoulda”; I don’t have a problem with that.

        It’s saying “should have went” instead of “should have gone” that bugs me.

        • gone refers to it actually happened past tense,
          went refers to the the action before it happens.

          in laymans terms ;)

          so you sir are correct.

          • Actually it depends on the previous word and the context of the tense.
            Ex. He went to the store. That is certainly not the action before it happens, whereas; Ex. Has he gone to the store? brings into question if the action has happened already. And finally; Ex. He has gone to the store. This also indicates the parallel of went. It depends almost solely on diction and syntax.

    • I think you are mixing issues. “try and” is technically incorrect no matter where you are. The word “and” is a conjunction in all locations. It is lack of education that permits people to use “try and” without being corrected. With the word “and”, if it is used correctly, you should be able to switch the sequence of objects, as in “black and white” vs “white and black”. Try that with “I am going to try and wash the car”.

      • I agree that “try and” is not correct if one means to say “try to”, regardless where one grew up.
        Consider the difference between “try and fail” and “try to fail”.
        But I wasn’t disputing that.

        What I meant was that certain constructions have become so ingrained in some areas, they no longer indicate a lack of education, low IQ, or that someone has overall poor grammar.

        Everyone in England says “try and”, from the bloke who skipped school altogether to the Prime Minister; even through all those years at Eton, no one corrected Prince William. Education has nothing to do with it, so there’s really nothing for it. Wrong as it may be, it’s just how Brits talk, and they are honestly taught to say it (attn. actual Brits: now would be a good time to chime in).

        Now consider what ididdyny (below) says. He claims in Brooklyn, students are “taught” to say “he don’t”. Well, I can’t speak for him, but I highly doubt there’s ever been a teacher pointing at a blackboard saying, “Repeat after me, class: I do not – I don’t, he do not – he don’t, she do not – she don’t, it do not – it don’t, we do not – we don’t, they do not – they don’t; very good, class.”
        So, sure, it’s very common to hear “she don’t” in Brooklyn, but no one was truly “taught” that was the correct way to speak.

        That’s why I think incorrect grammar and spelling are different from the “try to/try and” debate.

        • Interesting point. “try and fail” is wrong. But it is just laziness in the speech. What is actually meant is “to try, and to fail”. Nothing wrong with that.

    • Weird, I’ve always been taught (in UK) that it’s definitely not “different to” despite the popular misconception. It’s always “similar to” but “different from”, in contrast. What does throw me is the amount I’ve noticed (increasingly so recently) a third variant, “different than”, used in American English, which sounds equally wrong, yet the more I look the more ubiquitous it appears…? Is this just a colloquialism that’s taking root?

      To “try and do something” is a funny one as I’m sure it’s one that creeps into spoken language without thinking, but I’d always write it as “try to do something”. Which just goes to show the spectrum along which one’s use of ‘proper’ language or otherwise can vary, even if you think you stick to the rules!

      • Yes, different than has become ubiquitous in American English.

        It’s gotten so that word-processing software and even human editors do not correct it.
        Very disappointing.

        Especially considering different than doesn’t even makes sense b/c no comparison is being made.

        • Good to know I wasn’t imagining the whole phenomenon… Thanks for pointing out exactly why it’s nonsensical; I merely knew that it sounded irritating and wrong, but hadn’t stopped to work out precisely why before!

          • It depends entirely upon the context of the usage. “Different than” is acceptable (even preferable) when followed by a clause:
            “the movie was different than I expected.” If a noun follows different, (i.e. there is no subject), use “different from,” as in “that painting is different from the others.”

            Or, if you want the opinion of the Oxford English Dictionary, it makes no difference at all which of the three you use and when:

    • I have always assumed people mean AND not TO when they say “try and”. For example, “I will try and succeed” is just a contraction of “I will try and I will succeed”. Or with an adjective: “I will try harder and will succeed.”

    • Often times I use a mix of spellings/grammar rules, although I hadn’t ever been taught some of them.

      Otherwise, I have something to say about “shoulda went.” In one of my roleplaying games, it’s common for some of the characters from a specific region to speak like that. Not much else to add here.

    • I speak modified American, with the ability to adjust my speech depending on the circle I am in currently. That said, it is less about whose way of speaking is correct/ proper, and more about whose communication skills are more effective.

  9. My thought is that grey is used by the Brits because of two popular products that are more common there: Earl Grey and Grey Poupon; both due to a person’s name. Otherwise, I might think that all of us would have gray hair.

  10. I speak modified American, with the ability to adjust my speech depending on the circle I am in currently. That said, it is less about whose way of speaking is correct/ proper, and more about whose communication skills are more effective.

  11. On occasion I get to be a stickler on language, namely when a colloquialism becomes mainstream and then gets “adopted” as real language..the latest example being “chillax”…which should get ignored until it just goes away.

  12. When I say “grey”, I say gre-y, I pronounce it that way. “Gray” would sound completely different if you had any pronunciation skills at all.

    • A lot of New England vocabulary (as the regional name might imply) comes from our British roots. While other parts of the country were influenced highly by French, Dutch, and Spanish settlers, New England remained mostly English for the first couple hundred years.
      I’m from Massachusetts (Boston area) and I, too, use grey.

  13. In my mind, I always used Gray to mean the color and grey to describe a mood or some kind of unspecific feeling associated with the color (grey mood, grey day).

    • I agree to some extent. I’m American, and I feel grey refers to some foods, like Earl Grey Tea and Grey Poupon mustard, but also to steel, aluminum, and other light grey metals. I think gray is darker than grey, more like a gray crayon, or iron, or a gray beard. But light silver hair is grey to me. When I’m writing, grey reaches the keyboard before gray. I have to think about it to write gray. If I had to make a distinction, I would say the shiny side of aluminum foil is grey and the dull side is gray.

    • Anaesthesia (correct) versus Anesthesia (incorrect).
      Anaesthetist (correct) versus Anesthesiologist (incorrect).
      Gynaecologist (correct) versus Gynecologist (incorrect).
      Synaesthesia (correct) versus Synesthesia (incorrect).
      Grey (correct) versus Gray (North American).
      There are a few to be going on with…

  14. As with the “greyhound,” sometimes the “thing” determines the word used. For instance, yellow hair is often called “blonde,” and red hair “ginger.” These words are less used for yellow and red in other circumstances.

    My handle means Gray/Grey Wolf in Russian. There are several words for gray/grey in Russian. Seryy серый would describe the color of something, whereas sedoy седой would describe the color itself. “Gray area” would use a different phrase altogether.

    I once read an interesting article about the emotional impact of “color” words in different languages. For instance, “green with envy” in English doesn’t really relate to an actual skin color. Yellow or the white feather doesn’t seem particularly apt when referring to cowardice.

    As to spelling, I use a mixture because there is often a difference in the reference. I write West End Theatre and Ministry of Defence, but Broadway Theater or Department of Defense.

    Interestingly, the party spelled “Labour” in the UK is written “Labor” in Australia. Australians would spell the word “labour” in most other connotations.

    Canadians also use a strange mixture of UK/US spelling.

    • The Australian Labor Party is named for (or at the very least influenced by) the American labor movement of the early 20th century.

  15. That’s not quite true. English, unlike French, German and many other languages, has no governing body to decide what constitutes proper usage. Compare Shakespeare’s English to ours, and his French contemporaries to modern French, and you will see that the French spoken today is largely unchanged, relatively speaking. This is the strength of the English language, in my opinion.

    • La force de l’anglais c’est de ne pas savoir différencier milliard de billion ? De se battre pour grey/gray ? De ne pas se mettre d’accord sur les unités de poids et de mesures à utiliser ? Du coté de la route où rouler ? etc. Franchement, j’ignore ce qui vous pousse à vous opposer à ce point, mais ça ne constitue surement pas une force ;)
      [Every french speaking people is able to understand the very sense of what I just said]

      • MDR – C’est nul ces blagues a deux sesterces… le francais ne sait compter jusqu’a cent de façon intelligible. 4-20, 4-20-10 etc
        @blah and Bob: why don’t you go and talk to the Québécois with a Frenchman, or go to Switzerland (German speaking area) with a German, you will see they will have trouble understanding each other … babylon.

  16. My daughter’s middle name is Gray. I named her after an old friend named Grey, who is a male. I chose to spell her name with an ‘a’ because it seems more feminine to me.

  17. I’m surprised nothing has been said about the US getting 50 shades greyer after a popular fiction series. I wonder if grey will find new popularity here now. Aside from what’s hip, Grey is more comfortable to me. Gray seems dull for some reason.

  18. I prefer grey. Not in an attempt to pretend to be some sort of pompous buffoon, but because, ironically, the e invokes the a sound a lot better in my mind when I think about it. When I see the color or hear its name, I see “grey” in my mind’s eye. Plus, of course, Sasha Grey.

  19. Has there been any research into regional variations in the US? I’m from the South, and I’ve noticed that in many instances I was taught the British spelling of words like Grey and Axe. I wonder if it’s a regional difference in the US, or if I just had eccentric teachers…

  20. I am astonished by this discussion. As a New Englander, I am convinced we were taught the proper spelling was “grey” in grammar school. “Gray” doesn’t even look right to me…..hmm. Very interesting and entertaining discourse. (And disgruntled Canadians, please borrow a sense of humor from an American.)

  21. Personally I am getting really fed up with ‘z’ being placed where in the English language ‘s’ has always been used. I see this especially in subtitling on television which I am sure over time younger people will find acceptable and start using in general writing………. very sad.

  22. If this article is true (Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language, was published in 1828) then the dropping of the ‘English’ U coincided with the adoption of gray over grey by ‘American’ English. Changes over time in my opinion tended to ‘simplify’ spelling. So perhaps gray was adopted because the word is pronounced more with an a sound than an e.

  23. How many shades of Grey ir Gray are there? What abou Grey’s Anatomy? I’m going with however the Crayon company spells it.

  24. Interesting. These comments are definitely worth reading. Personally, I find “grey” to be more of an “olde” thing. It seems more poetic to me and has more potential for . . . literary exploration if you will. Likewise, “gray” gives a sharper newer meaning to the word.

  25. I think that the word grey sounds so much softer. Like color and colour. Color sounds harsh and blunt, where as colour sounds melodic.

  26. No idea where I learned this but I always learned that gray is a color “get the gray crayon”.

    I equally learned grey is an emotion not a color “People with anxiety claim to feel grey more than that of feeling blue”

  27. I’m an author and face a dilemma with this word. Somehow I convinced myself that gray is the color, while grey is a deep emotional state or a descriptive noun explaining something hazy or imperceptible. How bad would it be to use both versions in the same book?

  28. I have always associated gray with the color itself, while grey is associated with aging or weathering, so you could have hair that is colored gray or has become grey. Grey also seems more poetic somehow.

  29. I would say the spelling of grey rather a gray area ;P
    In all honesty that’s exactly how I would write that sentence. I’m from South Louisiana, but I have a thing for British affectations. For example, I prefer the spelling ‘saviour’ to ‘savior’ and in a Christian reference I will invariably use it. Probably due to growing up on the King James. I don’t use labour or colour. But color does look rather dull on the side of colour.

  30. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought of ‘grey’ as a colour. When I see ‘gray’ I think of a proper name, someone’s last name.

    I’m not British or Canadian, but I think some teacher in my past must have been. I spell ˈkələr, “colour”; I was taught to spell ‘theater’, “theatre”; and ‘center’, “centre.” Is it possible that those of us Americans who spell grey with an e were exposed at an early age to British literature and/or British citizens?

    I grew up (totally) in the military, post WW2, and I seem to remember the odd war bride.

  31. I’m way late on this, but I came across this nice little graphic lately and thought I’d make a point that may already have been made somewhere in this intimidatingly large 152-comment thread: Webster’s dictionary was published in the early/middle 19th Century, and Webster’s dictionary was a kind of celebratory split from UK spelling, so maybe that explains the sudden spike in Gray at around 1820something. Webster’s was first published in 1828.

  32. All of these comments with well structured grammar is a refreshing break to the rest of the seemingly uneducated internet.

  33. There was once an unusual problem with Web page palettes with grey/gray and green being mixed up under certain circumstances. It was related to the fact that in British English, ‘green’ comes before ‘grey’, whereas in American English ‘gray’ comes before ‘green’. I don’t recall the full story; perhaps a reader can enlighten us.

  34. The correct spelling is grey. As in the Aluminium is grey in colour. In America they would write Aluminum is gray in color. All three of those spellings present as incorrect in my Australian English spell check on Internet Explorer 10.

    • Alumium was the original spelling. When that got confused with Alum, Americans went with Aluminum and Brits went with Aluminium. So they are both wrong, or both right, depending on how you choose to look at it.

  35. I knew a man whose first name was Grey. I have relatives whose last name is Gray. Works for me.

  36. I live in the U.S., and I’ve always used ‘grey’. Does this make me British?

    And added thought: grey seems like a lighter shade than gray. Anyone know why that is?

  37. You may have noticed, that as your comment has a negative rating, no one likes a correct whore, and NOR is the word “nor” still used by anyone that’s not a pompous douche bag trying to look intelligent. It’s archaic. Get over it.

  38. Americans do speak and write English, American English which is the more clear and understanding when spoken by Americans than their counter parts British speaking natives. American’s, United States of America are all muts there are no pure bred Americans we all are mix breeds with European and or Native American nationalities. So when someone says there true Americans they are not understanding where they came from. Remember the country was discovered and colonized and mingled throughout generations. European blood is mixed through America some with Native American Indian who were the true Americans. Most people don’t realized the Vikings from Sweden discovered America 500 years earlier than Christopher Columbus and colonized the northern part of American, Canada and Iceland and Greenland. Christopher just put it on the map, they don’t teach that in schools these days. Eric the Red founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland his son Leif Ericson the famous Icelandic explorer who discovered America 500-years before Christopher and created a settlement in North America Vinland but was propelled by The Natives during that time, because they never seen such savage warriors that were more savage then themselves. “Vinland was the name given to an area of North America by the Norsemen” 500-years later Christopher Columbus the famous Italian explorer lands and claims the country and a complete take over as they had weapons the natives never seen, fire arms. Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas (having been preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif Ericson in the 11th century. Columbus’s voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the
    Americas, inaugurating a period of European exploration, conquest, and
    colonization that lasted for several centuries. They had, therefore, an
    enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western
    world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light
    of the spreading of the Christian Religion. The use of English in the United States is a result of English Colonization. So when you say Americans do not speak and write English they do American English is a set of dialects of the English language.

  39. I don’t know why the discussion is about pronunciation when the article is about spelling. I suspect that most of the instances of “gray” in British English are either proper names or in material written by people who habitually adopt American spellings. As an editor I would always correct that to “grey”, which is the correct British English version.

  40. It’s funny, because “grey” and “gray” are actually 2 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORDS. They are 2 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT colors. Author of this page needs to learn about this before thinking he knows everything.

  41. and everybody (insert Dr.Dolittle singing)….”Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak”

  42. I’m from Texas and yes, I have the good ole Texas drawl/twang. I do sound like Perry and say fixin’ to, over yonder, fahr (for fire), mah (for my), blue norther (storm), and all them other nice Texan sayings other people envy.

    -Come’n’take it!-

  43. I vote we change the preferred “native” language in America from English, to “Americanese”.

  44. What the heck does Canada, America, the US, or mumbling have to do with the word “gray”, or “grey” if that’s what u prefer.

  45. Wow, they have all these charts and paragraph after paragraph just to explain the difference between grey and gray haha

  46. Those who profess no limits to the actions which can be taken in the majority’s name are undermining liberty and democratic processes.

  47. There is an interesting spike in the word grey from 1908 to 1945, maybe this is due to war and the greyness and darkness associated with war and its prevalence in poetry and publications during that time period.

  48. I believed – Grey = name of color/ colour and Gray = an illusive / undefined area ; as simple as this.
    Though after reading a few comments below and out of curiosity a few more, I don’t know why humans take – every question/doubt asked into their nation/culture/place of living..blah..blah and make it look like a fight… We are all different..yet we are all humans.. So why this problem… Live n Let Live!!

  49. I’m from the U.S. and I’ve always spelled it “grey” as “gray” looks funny to me. The same with “theatre.” I’ve been taught to spell it “Theater” but for some reason, I have been spelling it “theatre” for a long time. My parents have no idea where I picked up those spellings, lol!

  50. I am from america and i feel as if Gray is more of a surname and Grey is most commonly associated with the color.

  51. I personally use grey, I don’t know why. I live in America but it just seems right. That’s why on most school assignments I usually get lectured on using “gray”, but I say to my teacher, “Why does it matter? Grey is MY spelling and maybe I came from, I don’t know, IRELAND.” (and yes, that is true. I love learning Gaelic as much as I can so the language doesn’t fade away.)

  52. I use grey, and realise my friends make fun of me for it but I continue saying it. I also say foutball instead of soccer because I think it makes more sense. -.-

  53. Although there are languages that have been created in this way, like klingon, elven Esperanto Ido, soresol, volapuk, Elefen, solvio and many others! :)

  54. An ax-wielding suspect in a gray bandana murdered a
    couple, who were traveling in middle America, for their social security money.

  55. Hah! I knew it. I write novels set in 18th c Colonial and Rev America. I use grey by default and have had more than one editor try to change it on me. Now I can support my claim that “grey” is the correct spelling for my time period.

  56. Not sure if this has been pointed out yet, but an easy way to remember the US/UK spelling is:
    grAy (America) and grEy (England). You’re welcome.

    • interestingly the movie produced in the US uses “grey” in the title just like the original british book

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