By Jake Davis

Disusage presents the contradictions and foibles of usage manuals, style guides, and the quirky folks who love them. This week: grey v. gray.

gray (Brit. grey)
1. of a color intermediate between black and white, as of ashes or an overcast sky : gray flannel trousers.
2. dull and nondescript; without interest or character : gray, faceless men | the gray daily routine.
3. (of financial or trading activity) not accounted for in official statistics : thegray economy.
1. gray color or pigment : dirty intermediate tones of gray.
2. a gray thing or animal, in particular a gray or white horse.
New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition, 2005

gray; grey. The former spelling is more common in AmE, the latter in BrE; both are old, and neither is incorrect. Still, greyhound is an invariable spelling.
—from Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd edition, 2009

graybeard. n. s. [ gray and beard ]
An old man, in contempt.
     Youngling, thou can’st not love so dear as I.
     Graybeard, thy love doth freeze. Shakespeare.
     Have I in conquest strecht mine arm so far,
     To be afraid to tell graybeards the truth? Shakes. Jul. Cæs.
grayhound. See greyhound.
—from Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755

grey. (?) a. See gray (the correct orthography).
—from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

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