I’m an American. I was born here, raised here, and, except for a week in Nova Scotia, a weekend at Niagara Falls, and two weeks in the Virgin Islands, I’ve never set foot outside the United States. I like some British television (Dr. Who; Monty Python, and yes, Downton Abbey, though I’m hopelessly behind), and a lot of British music, but I’m hardly an Anglophile. I’d love to cross the pond and visit Jolly Old, but, no offense intended, I have no desire to make it my permanent home.
So, why can’t I get grey and gray right?
I was dimly aware of a problem with it when I was writing PARALLEL LIVES. Whenever that word came up (and it came up a fair amount), I would pause—grey, or gray? I knew both were technically right, but that one was more right. And so I went with grey, because that one looked more right. But sometimes I went with gray, because that one just rolled off my fingers. And sat some point, I’m sure I looked it up in the dictionary and found that ‘gray’ is the American usage. All right. Gray it is. (I should point out, I have problems with other ‘British’ words. I don’t take ‘offence’ at insults. When I played hockey, I played defense, not defence. A ‘bum’ is a guy who panhandles on the subway, my car has a trunk, not a boot. My problem seems to be exclusively with grey and gray. I don’t know why.)
This week, in addition to finally pushing myself on a new WiP (I mean, really pushing it; the story isn’t bursting out of my head at this point, but I’ve decided to force it a little bit, and things are moving), I decided to read through BARTON’S WOMEN. I’m trying very hard to give it an overview read, make sure I don’t have any glaring iconsistencies, continuity errors, etc., etc. I’m making notes, but not getting into minutiae.
Except there’s that grey/gray thing again. I came across the word, looked it up, realized I was again defaulting to grey, and made the switch. And then I did it again. And again. Yesterday, I did a ‘find all’ on my manuscript and found 19 instances of ‘grey.’ I will change them all.
And when the day comes for me to read over this new WiP, I will do it again.
Do you have any words that consistently trip you up? What are they, and what do you do about them?
And, in celebration of this little word that gives me so much trouble, here’s the only top-10 hit from the Grateful Dead, “Touch of
Grey Gray.” Have a great weekend, all!