"In the third grade I was entered in a spelling bee. During one of the earlier rounds, I was asked to give the spelling of the word "gray." Having a photographic memory, the image of a gray coloring crayon quickly came to mind. On its side, as is customary of most crayons, the crayon's color was written. The spelling I saw on that imagined crayon (which most certainly came from an actual experience in my past) was g-r-e-y. So, that is how I answered the question.
When I was told my spelling was incorrect, I returned to my chair and tried to fight back tears (I really wanted to win, and didn't feel I deserved to be leaving the event so quickly). Not minutes after I had sat down, one of the teachers in the room spoke up and said that she believed my spelling of the word gray was not incorrect. After some research (I believe we were in the school library, so it didn't take long), it was decided that my spelling of the word was acceptable, and I was allowed to continue participating. I eventually ended up winning the spelling bee — something I was very proud of at the time — but that is neither here nor there.
The point of this story is, there are two acceptable spellings of the word gray. Prior to today I was under the assumption that "gray" was the more popular of the pair, but after two quick Google searches for "gray" and "grey," I realized the difference seems to be very slight (on the Web, at least).
So what, then, is the difference between the two spellings? According to Google Answers, the two words have almost the same meaning in all cases, and g-r-a-y is simply an American derivation of the original spelling g-r-e-y. According to Flak Magazine, the difference can be chalked up to the same happenstances that led to organize/organise and judgement/judgment. Apparently e.e. cummings and Prince are partly to blame as well. However, among the several hypotheses for why gray and grey exist, I believe the following to be the best:
Gray is a color.
Grey is a *colour*.
So next time you're faced with the choice of spelling the word "gray," feel free to go with whatever spelling best suits you at the time. I think I'll continue to use g-r-e-y, just because it's been so lucky for me in the past."Eraser Eater spelled the word "grey." That's my boy. I prefer that spelling too. I am so English, I suppose.