Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gray Matter

Is it a grey mouse or a gray mouse? Is one's hair grey or gray? These are things I never took the time to contemplate, especially when I was more concerned about where I parked my car, did I still have Diet Coke in my 'fridge, and was I certain I was not not wearing the same outfit I wore last week. But I digress.

This all goes back to tomayto or tomahto. Oh, there are the confusing homonyms such as there/their, compliment/ complement, bare/ bear, berry/bury, aunt/ ant, and so and sew. But even in my simple mind I know that a bear bare's his butt, bad berries can be buried, and old maid aunts are often fearful of the insects. But, unlike tomato (tomayto) and tomato (tomahto), those former words are easily discernible after a good second grade lesson of Roberts English. (Or, maybe Mrs. Mirmow's Freshman grammar class, in my case.)

Back to the matter at hand. My days are spent in the President's office at The Citadel. And, one thing I can say about my job is that I never know what is going to come through the door on any given day. It can vary from the esteemed writer, David McCullough, to a disheveled older man demanding to speak to the President, spouting his credentials as a "Nineteen Star General" as reason enough to grant him access. You just cannot make this up.

The Citadel is known for many things - Pat Conroy's books, The Lords of Discipline, My Losing Season, and The Boo, Friday afternoon parade, the romance of young men in uniforms, and the "Long Gray Line." This latter phrase refers to the line the Seniors form in their elegant gray uniforms during their final parade the weekend of graduation. It is a long standing tradition - like most things around here.

Earlier this week, a letter came from the corresponding secretary for the President's signature. In going through the regular channels, a lady, who is the keeper of all institutional knowledge, brought it back and stated. "This cannot go out. The word 'grey' is misspelled."

Naturally, we looked at the letter and saw that it was spelled g-r-e-y. When we questioned her.  She responded that the neutral or achromatic intermediate color between black and white used so much around the college is always to be spelled g-r-a-y. The reason being one of political correctness.

Seriously, I thought.She continued. Seems Grey, g-r-e-y, is associated with "Confederate Grey", the color of the soldiers' uniforms of the Confederate States of America. Gray,- g-r-a-y, is the PC acceptable color that does not offend anyone.

Ah, but Grasshopper, it is not that simple. Upon further research, one source states that "Grey" is the English spelling, while "Gray" is American. Another source got more into the weeds. According to "Writing Explained":
  • He is wearing a grey sweatshirt. (Adjective)
  • You need to add more gray into the mixture. (Noun)
  • My hair quickly grayed after my thirties. (Verb)
Wikipedia also refers to "Grey" as the color for the Confederate uniforms during the war of northern aggression, so one would think that would settle it. Until one reads further down the page to see that the uniforms of the cadets at The US Military Academy (West Point) are also "Grey".

Perhaps, that is why it is referred to as a gray area? Or is it a grey area? Another mystery of the universe to be added to that falling tree in the forest, Tarzan's ever clean shaven face, justifying the order of the alphabet, and the "Y" chromosome and all the issues it brings upon the world.

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