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>Matthew insists on puffed sleeves

>and Anne her e. But what’s the difference between gray and grey?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. says:

    >I am one of those who truly believes here is a difference between gray and gray. and not just because I live four months a year in Scotland!

    To me, gray is a less exciting color, a bit bland whereas grey is deeper, cooler, like stones washed by the sea. Gray signifies stones that may have been wet at some point but are now dry and have lost all their beauty.


  2. >Madeleine L'Engle had a thing about gray and grey. From A Circle of Quiet: "Then there's grey, which is English, and one very definite, bird-wing, ocean-wave color to me; and gray, which is American, and a flatter, more metallic color."

    She must have arrived at this after The Moon By Night, because slick Zachary's last name is Grey there and Gray in the books after it (and Vicky even goes on about his eyes being gray like his name, not grey).

  3. IrreverendAmy says:

    >The spelling and even the shape of words definitely affects their connotations, to me. The thing that makes "ax" set my teeth on edge feels like part of the same kind of awareness of words that also makes me almost always remember how they're spelled. People can have an excellent ear for language in every other way and be lousy spellers, no question. But I wonder if there is a correlation between those who are naturally good spellers and those who insist that gray and grey, and most definitely Anne and Ann are different (Anne–so sophisticated! Ann–so dowdy!).

    There, now I've pissed off Anns and bad spellers in one swell foop.

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    >Well, to piss off Jane and the ghost of L'Engle, my eyes always roll a bit when I see "grey" in an American book. I even hated Joan Baez when she released that album called Colours so you can see this is a prejudice of longstanding.

  5. kristin cashore says:

    >"Grey" is how I've always spelled "gray," having grown up reading so many British classics and not really thinking about the difference — until I got my first copyedited ms back and all my "greys" had been changed to "grays." It made me sad. 🙁 But then, a few months later, I got that same copyedited ms back from my U.K. publisher, and they'd switched all the "grays" back to "greys," so I was happy again!

    For the record, the references to Matthew, Anne with an E, and PUFFED SLEEVES made my day.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Grays are opaque; greys are slightly translucent. Suede gloves are gray; dry slate is gray; but the ocean generally looks green-grey when it is acting up, and the glaze on celadon pottery has a good deal of grey in it. My computer disapproves of "grey" and tries to keep me from using it. This renders me infuriate. Where do we expect to end up, if we blur all these fascinating distinctions? Lying in the gutter, all of us–and not a star in sight.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >Meanwhile, soldiers are dying in the mountains of Afghanistan…

  8. >Congratulations. Your blog has been nominated for our Library Blog Awards. In fact, your blog was suggested more than once. We're in the process of assembling information about all those nominated and will be sending a short questionaire, including the categories of awards and the judges involved. Would you please send me your email address so that I can send you the questionaire? If your email is on your blog, I couldn't locate it.

    Thanks in advance,
    Peter W Tobey

  9. GraceAnne LadyHawk says:

    >Gray has too much pink in it; grey is what the color is.

  10. Shoshana says:

    >"The only real cat is a grey cat." -Emily of New Moon

    "Gray" just isn't as soft and furry, is it?

  11. Anonymous says:

    >I don't get the reference to Matthew and puffed sleeves.

    betty t, Minneapolis

  12. Anonymous says:

    >Joan Baez is Canadian and we spell colours with a U.

  13. >Anon @ 10:42 — I think you've confused Joan Baez with Joni Mitchell. Or k.d. lang.

  14. Melinda says:

    >I agree with all the folks (including Katharine S. White) who equate gray with skies and grey with kittens.

    For me, it's also part of liking the cooler-looking word. I prefer doughnuts, catalogue, etc. There's a little town to the north of here named Fortescue, or Fortesque — the latter spelling is much more fun!

  15. Anonymous says:

    >So, no one's going to help out poor Betty in Minneapolis?

    *evil laugh*

  16. Shoshana says:

    >Betty, Matthew insists on puffed sleeves in a dress for Anne because they're desperately, dramatically important to her, rather like the e in her name and pretty much everything else she sets her heart on.

  17. Anonymous says:

    >That would be Anne of Green Gables, Betty.

  18. Susan Patron says:

    >Cynthia Kadohata writes in her beautiful new book, A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY, "The next morning he woke up before sunrise. The green shades of the jungle seemed gray in the dim light. A million shades of gray, just like the hide of an elephant."

  19. >"Shades of gray, wherever I go; the more I find out, the less that I know."

    Tip of the pen (keyboard) to Billy Joel

  20. IrreverendAmy says:

    >I agree that "Colours" is pretentious (Anonymous @ 10:42, maybe you're mixing up Joan Baez with Joni Mitchell–Baez is US American) but IMO gray/grey is different, since both are permissible under US spelling.

  21. IrreverendAmy says:

    >Oh, and my gray cat is definitely gray. Maybe if she tilted more toward the brown than the blue, she'd be grey. Then again, maybe anyone who spells her name Stephenie shouldn't be trusted on such matters.

  22. Roger Sutton says:

    >Susan, that's a great line. And if Kadohata had used grey I would be too distracted by the spelling to see the color.

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