Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The insanity is in the details

I've mentioned my word thing before.

I've mentioned it more than once.

I'm about to mention it again. Well, a variation of it, at any rate.

For the past forty-eight hours, ever since I started writing my last post, I've been thinking - okay, I've been perseverating. It's gone something like this:

Gray.

Grey.

Gray?

Gray.

Gray.

Grey.

Grey?

It's making me crazy.

Grey - or gray - was a key word in my last post. I had to choose one spelling and stick with it. I started with "grey". Then I made reference to Carol Gray, so I went back and changed all the "grey" to "gray" - you know, so I'd look more clever.

But the "gray" bugged me. It bugged me so much I had to go through and change it all back to "grey".

Then I started to panic, so I did what I always do when I'm starting to panic: I turned to Google. I was surprised and, frankly, relieved to find that I was not alone in my grey/gray conundrum, especially when I found this post by Bernie Zimmerman from May, 2004... and its 146 comments.

Zimmerman explains that both spellings of the word are acceptable, but he sums up the difference this way: "Gray is a color. Grey is a colour."

Fascinating. Why, then, is it grey that speaks to me? I mean, really: despite my fascinations with Paul McCartney, Colin Firth, and Sarah Ferguson, I will never actually be British. Though I live in a cold climate and support socialized medicine, I will never actually be Canadian. I'm an American. I wait in lines, not on them. I go on vacation, not on holiday. If I wrote the word "colour," it would feel like an affectation.

But I am all about the grey.

Maybe my brain is making a subconscious connection to another recent obsession: Grey's Anatomy. I think it's more likely, though, that I'm being driven by a connotative meaning of the word that Wikipedia describes this way:

"Some American writers tend to assign wistful, positive connotations to grey, as in 'a grey fog hung over the skyline', whereas gray often carries connotations of drabness, 'a gray, gloomy day'."

That's it, I think. In a post that celebrates grey - that celebrates Bud and his unique grey matter - I was driven to steer clear of connotations of the drab and the gloomy.

So grey. I'm sticking with grey.

By which I mean no disrespect to Carol Gray.

Or Macy Gray.

Or Gray Davis.

Oh, no. Here we go again...

25 comments:

Kitt said...

I wonder if there's a word for when you stare at or think about a word so long that it turns into something completely alien. (Which started to happen with gray/grey as I read your post.)

It's like the word suddenly rips itself from the comfortable mooring of meaning in your head and goes sailing off into the unknown.

This Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

That always trips me up. Growing up we always visited Grey, Maine in the summer.

Wendy said...

Oooh, I like Colin Firth too! He's on my "list". You know, those lists that married people have?

MOM-NOS said...

Kitt, I am all too familiar with that phenomenon. A couple of notable examples: does (seriously? does? that sounds like duz? shouldn't it rhyme with foes?) and fruit (froo-it? that can't be right... froo-it?)

NAN-NOS said...

"... shouldn't it rhyme with foes?"

- it DUZ! Does. Two female deer?

xoxo

MOM-NOS said...

Yes, Nan, but there again - it's a grey area. According to Websters, there are two correct plurals: does and doe.

So the question becomes: When does one use does, if one does know that doe will do?

lizziehoop said...

I am Canadian. It is gray here but we have spell checks made by you Americans so we sometimes (when other Canadians aren't looking) write grey. If black and white are not considered colours (ie colors) then is gray really a colour at all? and really it has a sad connotation to it anyway - gloomy (like Eeyore). BTW, I stand in line and go on vacation and we have trunks and hoods on our cars not bonnets and boots like those snotty British :) so we really aren't that different from you guys - there are just less of us, we apologize and thank people way too much, and we like the letter u a lot more than you.

MOM-NOS said...

Very interesting, lizziehoop. Looks like I have all kinds of misconceptions about our neighbors - sorry, neighbours - to the north.

Let me ask you this, though: Do you wear pyjamas? (Or is that too personal a question?)

lizziehoop said...

Actually I wear a nightshirt!. But I do spell it with the y. I used to tell my daughter that we were going to put on her p-y-jamas. That word always freaks me out a bit - does it really need a vowel of any kind? Pjamas looks fine to me! We should just stick to pjs - the world would be a happier place!
Get this - the letters I needed to type to post this -- krgray - no foolin!

bubandpie said...

I'm not sure I knew we shared the Colin Firth obsession...

(I'm pretty sure I go with "grey" every time - but then again, I can write "colour" without a qualm - citizenship has its benefits.)

MOM-NOS said...

Wendy and Bubandpie, I would just like to call your attention to the fact that I am not taking advantage of this opportunity to expound upon the Colin Firth thing because, while not British, I am dignified. On the outside, I mean.

Wendy said...

Haha! I thought, when I saw your response to us, that you were going to write something along the lines of: Keep Your Hands Off Girls! He's Mine.

:)

Kitt said...

Nah, she knows she has Firth dibs.

MothersVox said...

I can't believe it -- you have the gray/grey thing! I have it too. I was writing an article that had gray or grey in the title and it was driving me crazy. The insanity, is, as you say, in the details.

But more importantly -- or maybe not more importantly ;) -- these testing protocols for our kids are just completely off. I'm supposed to be chasing after our written report and just can't even bring myself to call the doctor to remind him that we've been waiting two months for it. Even if Sweet M scored better this go-around, I just can't bear to think about reading it.

Jannalou said...

I'm Canadian, and I write grey. (And my USian spellchecker just said I spelled it wrong.)

And I do, on occasion, wear pyjamas. ;)

kyra said...

hey?! another THIS MOM??? i'm a little taken aback...

okay. i'll pull myself together and weigh in. i've always been a fan of grey. i know both spellings are acceptable but somehow grey FEELS more right to me.

lizziehoop said...

Know something? I just found out that a friend of mine in a different province spells it grey and she is just as Canadian as I am. So maybe this isn't a country type thing but more of a personal preference thing?? One of my spell checks will accept both while one only likes grey and another only like gray. Where will the madness end???

Daisy said...

I ran into that when I taught first grade and I had to write "gray" or the kids would not recognize the word because "grey" isn't precisely phonetic.

Laura said...

I have a thing for Grey over Gray, too. Though I like Gray as a name better (no offence - whoa! Where'd that C come from? OffenSe! to Meredith, of course).

I think it's because I read so many British books as a preteen - all those dreary grey days really affect a preteen.

mcewen said...

Ha ha! "Gray is a color. Grey is a colour."
that is exactly it! Depends entirely upon which side of the pond you're on, everything else is irrelevant.

You should see me trying to correct my children's spelling on their homework! 'Go to the bottom of the class you ignorant foreigner' seems to be the general consensus of the teaching profession.
Cheers

Teal said...

First, while you may not want to face it, it IS Grey's Anatomy that is creating this problem. You would not be consciously thinking about GREY if it were not right there in your immediate and often tapped subconscious. Second, I think it's simpler than you think. The reality is that in the U.S., "grey" is just perceived as classier than "gray." So, the fact that you have a crush on a hunky-yet-classy t.v. character needs to be acknowledged before you can move on.

MOTHER OF MANY said...

For me it's grey and colin Firth of course!

Mom to Mr. Handsome said...

I always wondered that too. I thought that gray was the color and grey was a mood/feeling. I always just picked one randomly and hoped for the best! lol

Kristin

Natalie said...

I realize this comment is years late, but I have to comment on the grey/gray conundrum. To me, grey is smooth while gray is sharp. In my mind, they are not only spelled differently, they also have a different sound. I always go with grey, to the point that, when a professor corrected the word to "gray" on a paper, I crossed out her correction and simply wrote "no" beside it.