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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gray vs. Grey (American vs. British)

It turns out that this is a rather simple puzzle to solve. Both words have the exact same meaning (a color somewhere in between black and white. :)) However, “grey” is the British spelling of the word while “gray” is a later American variant.

Some may say that if you are British you should use “grey” and if you are American you should use “gray.” Nevertheless, either is acceptable as long as you choose one version and stick to it throughout the entire length of a piece.

Other British/American differences are:

Toward (American) vs. Towards (British)
Color (American) vs. Colour (British)
Theater (American) vs. Theatre (British)
            As a side note here, some writers will use the “theater” spelling when referring to a movie theater and then use the “theatre” spelling when referring to a place that houses live performances. But, just like grey or gray, either is usually acceptable as long as you stick to one version throughout an entire piece.
Analyze (American) vs. Analyse (British)
Center (American) vs. Centre (British)
Dialog (American) vs. Dialogue (British)

Another thing I found completely interesting while researching this topic is that I use a mix of both American and British spelling when I write. I will use the American spellings of toward, color, theater, analyze, and center. However, I use the British versions of grey and dialogue.

What versions do you guys use? Also, do you know about any other British/American differences?


  1. Awesome :-D I grew up reading a lot of 18th century through [or "thru"] early 20th century British authors. Hence I nearly always want to use the British spellings and I even slip into ye olde English sometimes when I'm monologuing. It just depends on whether I want people to know what I'm saying or whether I want to have fun playing with outdated words.

  2. This is fascinating. There is a member of a message board which I frequent whose handle is "Grey." He's British. I flip-flop between them in different contexts. But now that I know this, I will, with great retention, use the proper one in a context.

    I have never actually seen the spelling "dialog."

    Brits, along the "s" as a z-sound rule, will use it in names, as well. I.e., "Elisa" and "Eliza."

    While it's not a matter of spelling, the "lift vs. elevator" concept has been used in a joke about the dialects:

    There was an American who was staying at a posh hotel in London. He was a self-made man, wealthy and proud of his heritage. Having checked in, he decided to sample the cuisine but was somewhat disoriented by the different method used for counting floors. After asking, the concierge directed him to the "elevator."

    Possibly because of the earlier confusion, the somewhat disgruntled guest decided to correct the hotel employee: "You mean lift, don't you?"

    "No," responded the concierge, who was not prepared to be corrected by a mere American, regardless of wealth, "I meant elevator!"

    The guest frowned and growled in reply: "We invented the darn things and we can call them whatever we like!"

    "Certainly sir!", came the quick reply, "but don't forget WE invented the language."

  3. That's really cool, Patrick. I read a lot of Victorian literature so that's really what started me on this track, trying to figure out if there was any other differences besides the spellings.

    Matt, that's too funny and I didn't know that they changed the spellings in names as well. That's very interesting.

  4. Some words like "cancelled" can be spelled acceptably with one "l" or 2. Also, "judgement" can be spelled with or w/o the "e." I wonder if this is an example of British<->American?

  5. Yes, both of those are further examples of discrepancies between American English and British English. I just didn't add them into this post because I didn't want to entirely overwhelm you guys with examples. Plus, you don't seem to see those as often. (At least, I haven't.)

  6. That's what comments are for: expounding on topics. You have enlightened me, this day.

  7. I'm English and I found it quite interesting.
    Considering the fact that I'm British for most of those words I use the American spelling.
    I think it was because I was raised by my brother and before he moved back to England I lived with my Aunt. But once he moved he used to write alot and I got alot of my spellings from him. I used to want to be just like him. Haha which is quite amusing in itself.

  8. That's very interesting. So, did your brother live in America before he moved back to England, then? That would explain why he might have picked it up, and then you from him.

    I bet it would be annoying to be British and then live in America, using an American Word processor with a spell checker that is telling you every 10 words is spelled wrong. I'd be irritated and try and rewrite the dictionary in the program. Lol.

  9. I've always wondered about the grey thing, and it's odd really, I do a lot of written roleplay and I've found that when I'm playing characters that are more formal I lapse into the British spellings without even realizing I'm doing it. My best friend, who I roleplay with, brought it to my attention. A lot of the words we end with -or they end with -our, and a lot of our words with -z (I think) they replace with -s. Or maybe it's backwards, I'd have to writing roleplay to get that right apparently :)

    I have a character named Laney Grey too, but she's not British :)

  10. What a coincidence, I sometimes roleplay on message boards. In fact, one RP which I've hosted inspired me to work on a novel.

  11. @Matt - I do the good old myspace roleplay :) What started out as a couple of characters has turned into 40+ and a whole little world!!

    That's where my novels usually come from, at least the ones I'm struggling through, there are lots more up in my noggin that haven't yet seen the light of day :)

  12. Haha, I used to rp via MySpace. I made three profiles for that purpose. They were good times. One of my characters was a rendition of Son Goku, the Monkey King from a video game adaptation of Journey to the West.

  13. I have to say that I have never tried role playing. I've seen forums that have done it though and it seems like a really great way to form charcters, getting to know them inside and out, deciding how they would act in certain situations. It's a neat idea.

  14. Oh the reminders of the DBZ days :) I once had an android character, YEARS and YEARS ago, it was fun to mess around with her strengths and weaknesses since all my expertise in the field came from when I used to babysit a seven year old boy and actually got intrigued with the story.

    @Aubrie - Yeeeeeah, imagine trying to develop personalities for 40 plus characters and keep them all straight! It's a lot of fun though, it's helped putting faces with the characters, helps you snap them into focus and ironically I've picked out all the photos I use first and the characters just somehow match the appearance. Not sure how that happens, but I guess it's because I've got a pretty good grasp of the character before I even start and I know in my head what they'd look like.

    You should try it sometime!

  15. Wow! That's really something. Even with everything I have started writing, I don't think I've hit 40 characters yet. And to have pictures for them as well. That's amazing! I'll definately have to look into it.

  16. I could give you some links to good places to get started.

  17. That would be great. Then, anyone else who was interested would be able to find links here as well.

  18. The RP forum at www.snafu-comics.com/forum has a good setup. Members are required to post in a few existing roleplays before submitting their own ideas to the Idea Board so that people can get a feel for their abilities. It is advised that the forum-specific rules be followed. They also enforce a rule system when submitting an idea: 4 people have to vote for it before an idea can be put into effect, but the case should be well-presented with essentially everything you intend for the setup laid out. This is the one I'm primarily familiar with. Should anyone come here, I could work with them directly as I am a regular to the site.


    -The forums at www.rpgdreamer.com

    Most message board communities will typically have a roleplaying sub-forum or at least a thread.

  19. Haha yea
    My brother did get a little confused. He moved there and I remember my aunt telling me that a week later he wanted to shoot himself. He was getting so irritated he wanted to come back home. I laughed.
    I would probably be the same. The British spell checker is always correcting me. So I changed my dictionary to the USA version because I use most of the spellings from there anyway.

  20. I can understand why. If I didn't know how to change the spell checker, I'd be bringing back the good ole pen and paper. lol.

  21. Really interesting. I'm British (in a way - at least, I would never speak American) and I mix as well. I would use the British towards, colour, grey and dialogue, while when spelling theatre, centre or analyse, I might spell them in American and then get that nagging feeling that I've got it wrong, so I'd look it up.
    But most of my words I would write in B/English, and I've even given up using Word because the spell checker drives me nuts (A/English). I prefer to use sites that 1)don't have a spell checker or 2)you have to toggle the spell checker.

    Matt Dimitrof - I didn't quite get your joke: English say lift, American say elevator, so why would an English concierge say elevator and an American guest say lift? Or am I just not reading it right?

  22. Lol, I copied it from another source. They seem to have misquoted it.

  23. That's what happens when people don't revise their work or have good editors! :) There are so many websites out there that just don't care or are too lazy to make their site worth reading.


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