Sunday, September 18, 2005

Grey gray

Cindy posed a question of spelling the other day.

I know that "grey" is the British spelling (European?) and that "gray" is the American spelling. But somehow, when I see the words, I see two different shades of whatever-that-color-is-which-is-a-mixture-of-only-black-and-white. Somewhere on this internet thingie is an example of the two shades in question. Off to go look.....

Not too bad--about 30 minutes of searching.

Edited to add: I cannot get all my pictures to line up on the left--I've taken them out and reattached them, so I apologize for the resulting mish mosh below. Carry on

First of all, if grey has another color mixed in with it, then it's blue--steel grey is definitely spelled with an "e" in my world view.
Blue grey














Whereas if gray has another color mixed in with it, then it's brown--buff gray and some gray tweeds are spelled with an "a" in my world view.
Brown gray

Edna and I may think this is important, but I agree that after a while this level of discrimination is a little nutty. But here's the thing, I read "gray" as a typo if it's referring to the wrong color in my own little obsessive world view. And typos are jaeeing, I mean, jarring.

The other generality here is that for me, gray is darker than grey. (Although if faced with a light brown gray and a dark steel grey, I think I'd still categorize on tint rather than value.) To whit:
Gray








Grey









So now that I've convinced you that I am a nitpicking loony, I will say that I know exactly where this distinction comes from. It goes back to horses. Unless it was born white, all white horses were born dark and over time turned white. The mature horse is called a "grey" and the process is called "greying out."

And here is a gray horse greying. I can describe her as being a gray color, and to me that's somehow different than her being a "grey mare." Like I can talk about a "bay horse" having a lovely shade of mahogany across his flanks, but I'd never describe him as a mahogany horse.

I learned this distinction very young, and somehow my brain installed some sort of toggle switch which differentiates between grey and gray in all things.
And if I look at this Haley Bartlett image, then I see a gray rock in the foreground and a blue-grey sky and lake in the background.

Mind you, this hardly keeps me up at night; I can label the different shades in my head within a fraction of a second. But it is one of those mucho bizarre tidbits in my personality which takes longer to describe than to experience. Thanks for listening.

6 comments:

Angela James said...

FYI, as far as I know, most publishers accept either spelling as long as the use is consistent throughout the book and/or series. You're the first person I've ever heard make such a specific distinction, lol.

Slightly on the same topic, I once had an arguement with an editor that brunette hair and black hair are NOT the same thing. I even held an informal reader poll. And won. LOL.

Suisan said...

Well, I should think so! Brunette, ce n'est pas noir! (And my French stinks.)

It is a really odd quirk, I don't think anyone else is so specific. C'est la vie...

CindyS said...

Wow, now that is why we are women ;) I'm pretty sure any man would look at those colours and just say grey. We look at those colours and ... well, I say things like blue grey, gunstock metal grey (from my dad), silver grey.

I think you're explaination of where you found your distinction is definitely legit. Correct me if I am wrong - and I probably am, but isn't a white horse called a gray? I remember Bob telling me this and I thought he was daft. Course, I have always wondering about measuring a horse by hands (?). I remember reading about it but I was very confused - easily done.

Brunette hair is brown (Jennifer Garner) and black hair, is on Cher ;) I may have considered firing my agent!

Suisan said...

Cindy, yes, once a horse has gone completely white, it is then incorrect to call that horse "a white horse." That horse is a grey. A silver grey, a "flea-bitten" grey, but not a white horse.

In solid-color registries the horses are listed as chestnut (c), bay (b), brown (br), black (bl) or grey (g).

The markings (star, stockings) are white because the horse was born with them, and some grey horses do "grey out" in utero. They are then appropriately called white. But they are so very, very, very rare that it's not worth bringing them into the discussion unless you have a compulsion to catagorize everything. Which I am clearly immune from.

Then there's albinos, but that's a horse of a different color....

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