Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gray anatomy or grey anatomy?


When you are looking at nervous tissue, do you discuss GRAY matter or do you discuss GREY matter? or does it really matter?

Yes, it does matter. It depends on whether you are communicating in a United States (U.S.) dialect of English or a United Kingdom (U.K.) dialect of English.

Ordinarily, in U.S. English, the color is spelled GRAY.  In U.K. English, the color is usually spelled GREY.

Actually, in U.K. English, one would state, "the colour is grey" because of the color/colour difference in spelling.

But does spelling matter?  I say YES.

My reasons are spelled out in detail in the article Does Spelling Matter? at The A&P Student. In that article, I discuss the fact that in the health professions, spelling errors are a grave matter of safety. Even small differences in spelling can have unintended, tragic consequences. And that means that during the training of health professionals, we should do all we can to learn how to communicate perfectly—and thereby learn to communicate safely.

I'll get back to the importance of spelling in a subsequent article.  For now, let's focus on the idea that U.S. and U.K. English have some differences in spelling, a few of which I summarize below.

Quick points about U.S. versus U.K. spelling differences


Professional communication requires correct spelling

  • Correct spelling avoids confusion and mistakes in communication
  • In the health professions, correct spelling is therefore a safety factor

Correct spelling in English varies from region to region

  • It is best to use the spelling correct to your particular regional context

Because communication is global, we frequently encounter regional variations

  • To avoid confusion, it best to be familiar with spellings used in other regions

U.K. English is not universal outside the U.S.

  • Canada, Australia, and some other regions use a mix of U.S. and U.K. spellings
  • Even in the U.K., some have adopted selected U.S. spellings

There are exceptions to every rule

  • Specific institutions and publications sometimes adopt spelling styles not typical of their regions
  • Some disciplines and specialties have adopted their own spelling styles, regardless of region
  • Some people have accidentally picked up spellings from outside their region and therefore use a mix of regional spelling styles
  • Some U.S. spellings are commonly (and correctly) used in the U.K. and some U.K. spellings are commonly (and correctly) used in the U.S.

Be resilient

  • Language is dynamic, producing regional dialects and spelling styles—so be on the lookout for changes as your regional language evolves


Some examples of U.S. versus U.K. spelling differences


The e/ae/oe vowels

Some words in U.S. English that use the e vowel instead use the ae or oe  diphthong in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
fetus
foetus
esophagus
oesophagus
feces
faeces
hemoglobin
haemoglobin
estrogen
oestrogen
cecum
caecum
anesthesia
anaesthesia

The -er/-or endings

Some words in U.S. English that end in -er instead end in -re in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
meter
metre
centimeter
centimetre
liter
litre
milliliter
millilitre
center
centre
fiber
fibre

The -or/-our endings

Some words in U.S. English that end in -or instead end in -our in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
flavor
flavour
color
colour
labor
labour
behavior
behaviour
humor
humour

The -ize/-ise endings

Some words in U.S. English that end in -ize instead end in -ise in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
organize
organise
visualize
visualise
organize
organise
characterize
characterise
metastasize
metastasise

The -yze/-yse endings

Some words in U.S. English that end in -yze instead end in -yse in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
lyze
lyse
hydrolyze
hydrolyse
catalyze
catalyse
paralyze
paralyse

The -og/-ogue endings

Some words in U.S. English that end in -og instead end in -ogue in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
catalog
catalogue
homolog
homologue
analog
analogue


Miscellaneous spelling differences

Some words in U.S. English have any of a variety of spelling differences in U.K. English.

U.S.
U.K.
gray
grey
disk
disc
glycerin
glycerine
mold
mould
neuron
neurone
sulfur, sulfate
sulphur, sulphate
anesthesia
anaesthesia


There are many other spelling differences among various dialects of English, but these examples give you sense of the concept.


Gray's Anatomy



Primed by the title of this article, you may be wondering which of these is proper:

Gray's Anatomy
Grey's Anatomy

It depends.

If you are referring to the classic anatomical treatise originally penned by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, then you should use Gray's Anatomy.

If instead you are referring to a television series featuring the character Meredith Grey, then you should use Grey's Anatomy.  The creators of this show about medical professionals intentionally played on the popularity of the anatomy reference—but in doing so, probably confused a lot of people!