Gray vs. Grey

On June 17, 2014 · 10 Comments

I’ve always had a terrible time remembering how to spell a certain word that describes a mixture of black and white. Should it be gray or grey? In a sense I understood that it depended upon geography. The adoption of simplified spelling in the United States through the efforts of people like dictionary publisher Noah Webster in the early 19th Century certainly had an impact. I uncovered a little mnemonic that helped me out. The word grAy applied primarily to America; the word grEy applied just about Everywhere else. That introduced problems and exceptions too. It seemed somewhat dismissive to consider the United States as representing all of "America" for instance. Also certain proper terms such as Greyhound were always spelled with an E regardless of geography. Still, I’d discovered a simple enough mnemonic even with its limitations.

According to,

Gray and grey are different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world. But gray is more common in American English, while grey is more common in all the other main varieties of English. In the U.K., for instance, grey appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed.

I’m not a grammar expert. Readers have to spend maybe five minutes on 12MC to understand that. I only wanted to know if the same ratio held geographically. I figured the percentage might be a little fuzzier because certain placenames would have existed prior to the polarization of gray versus grey between English-speaking nations. Either way, I was about to find out.

Gray and Grey in the United States

The United States’ Geographic Names Information System referenced 1,962 gray placenames and 550 grey placenames. That came a lot closer to 4:1 than the stated 20:1, although it marked a clear preference for the "Americanized" version.

Twelve Mile Circle loves anomalies so I examined the list of places in the United States that fell on the counterintuitive side of the spelling divide. The 550 were much more interesting to me than the 1,962.

Two Grey Hills
Two Grey Hills by Chuck Coker, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license

Two Grey Hills fascinated me in particular. What a wonderfully descriptive placename even if the two namesake hills in the embedded photograph didn’t look all that grey or gray. The photographer noted that he’d captured this image outside of the Two Grey Hills Trading Post (map) in a remote corner of western New Mexico.

The trading post dated back to 1897.

… over a century old, and one of the few remaining historic posts on the Navajo Indian Reservation, is the primary source of authentic regional rugs and tapestries. Made of hand spun yarn from the fleece of naturally colored local sheep in shades of gray, brown, black and white, they are known around the world as the finest in Navajo weaving… Operating in isolation for over 90 years with no identifying signs, it is well known only to Navajos.

The price of intricately handwoven Two Grey Hills rugs can run into the thousands of dollars, easily.

Grey and Gray Everywhere Else

The Gazetteer of British Place Names included 24 instances of Grey and 11 instances of Gray. The overall totals were much smaller than GNIS because the British database included only populated places, not every conceivable geographic feature like its US counterpart. Britain certainly demonstrated a preference for grey in its placenames although nothing approaching 20:1 in my unscientific sample. Canada, however, surprised me when the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base returned 93 grey placenames and 112 gray, or fairly equal. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was given "the spelling system can be said to follow both British and American forms." That seemed to be the case for grey/gray at least as far as Canadian placenames were concerned. Maybe our Canadians readers can tell us if there’s a spelling preference for other usages.

Gray Rink, Gray Saskatchewan

Nonetheless I selected a gray in Canada, the small prairie village of Gray, Saskatchewan, which is not to be confused with Earl Grey, Saskatchewan about 111 kilometres farther north (map).

Gray is a small community located 25 miles southeast of Regina. It was established in 1911 as an agricultural based town. Gray and the surrounding area is home to over 130 people and attracts people from a 35 mile radius for it’s many activities. Like most small towns in Saskatchewan, Gray has experienced the ups and downs in it’s population base and is currently in a growth position.

The village used the Americanized spelling of Gray and referenced miles rather than kilometres on its website. I began to wonder if someone might have slipped the border a little farther north during the night when nobody was looking. Then I noticed that social activities in Gray seemed to focus on its hockey rink. Clearly, Gray belonged in Canada.

Next I conducted some serious investigative journalism as the 12MC audience has come to expect over the years. Wikipedia claimed, without attribution I might add, that the village "…has a hockey team called the Gray Hounds." This statement violated the Greyhound rule and required additional fact-checking.

I found no verifiable evidence for the existence of the Gray Hounds. Indeed, the Men’s recreational hockey team in Gray went by a completely different name: the Screaming Os.

Oh my.

Pueblo Deco

On May 13, 2014 · Comments Off on Pueblo Deco

I learned about an uncommon, unusual design style known as Pueblo Deco as I researched Pre-Nazi Swastika Architectural Details. Native American tribes of the US Southwest such as the Navajo used a symbol that would be mistaken by the general public today as a swastika. That element carried forward to some of the derivative Pueblo Deco buildings constructed prior to the Second World War, which is how I came across the style.

Pueblo Deco arrived at the intersection of two other architectural movements popular during the early part of the 20th Century through the 1930’s, Art Deco and Pueblo Revival. 12MC isn’t an architecture site and I don’t have any training in the field so I won’t even begin to describe the styles. I’ll let the images explain themselves: Art Deco was an unmistakable you know it when you see it design and Pueblo Revival was rather self-explanatory too. Imagine a mash-up of the two. Their spawn became Pueblo Deco.

KiMo Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kimo Theater
Kimo Theater by Mike Tungate, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre may best exemplify Pueblo Deco, or at least serve as its most recognizable landmark (map). This was the property I featured in my earlier article that sparked my initial curiosity.

The City of Albuquerque purchased the KiMo Theater in 1977, saving it from probable destruction after years of neglect. It began as the vision an immigrant entrepreneur, Oreste Bachechi, and opened in 1927 during the golden era of elegant movie palaces. As the city’s Kimo Theater History explained, Bachechi wanted a building "that would stand out among the Greek temples and Chinese pavilions of contemporary movie mania." His architect Carl Boller "traveled throughout New Mexico, visiting the pueblos of Acoma and Isleta, and the Navajo Nation" in search of inspiration. Even the name KiMo derived from the pueblos; it reflected a Tiwa word for mountain lion.

Albuquerque seemed to be the epicenter of Pueblo Deco. The Art Deco Society of New Mexico even published a Pueblo Deco Tour of the city.

Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona

IMG_2994 by Daniel Langer, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Pueblo Deco spread within neighboring Arizona too. The state’s preeminent example may be the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, now a Waldorf Astoria resort, billed as "The Jewel of the Desert since 1929" (map).

Sometimes it’s mistaken for a Frank Lloyd Wright design. While Wright consulted on the project for several months, the actual architect was one of his former students, Albert Chase McArthur. As the hotel’s history page noted, "Perhaps the most obvious and dramatic design link to Wright is the use of indigenous materials that led to the creation of the ‘Biltmore Block.’ The pre-cast concrete blocks were molded on-site and used in the total construction of the resort."

The Arizona Biltmore anchored a high-end commercial and residential neighborhood that developed around it, the Biltmore District. Famous celebrities and politicians relaxed in the desert over the years. For example "Irving Berlin penned many tunes, including ‘White Christmas’ while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore." The hotel last scored a minor historical footnote as the site where John McCain conceded defeat after his failed 2008 presidential campaign.

(former) Casa Grande Train Station, Casa Grande, Arizona

Casa Grande, AZ train station (destroyed by fire 6/09)
Casa Grande, AZ train station (destroyed by fire 6/09) by Ron Reiring, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Pueblo Deco buildings didn’t need to be grandiose and monumental to fit the general style. The Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a station in Casa Grande, Arizona in 1940 that presented a much more utilitarian form. It was rather simple although it clearly displayed elements of the fusion. Unfortunately despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building fell into neglect, remained empty for many years, caught fire in 2009 and could not be saved. Photographs of the fire were included on the Casa Grande Firefighters site.

The station used to stand at 201 W Main Street, now a vacant lot. Such a pity. The location still appears on OpenStreetMap for now (map).

Cliff Dwellers’ Apartments, New York City, New York

Cliff Dwellers’ Apartments, New York, NY

While primarily a regional style generally confined to the desert southwest, Pueblo Deco sometimes appeared outside of its natural range. The Cliff Dwellers’ (Cliff Dwelling) Apartments on Riverside Drive between West 96th and 97th Streets in New York City employed a number of similar design characteristics. The New York Times featured this structure in 2002, describing it as "A Terra Cotta Masterpiece."

On the exterior, [Herman Lee] Meader again used terra cotta inventively. His designs of double-headed snakes, the skulls of cows, mountain lions, scowling masklike faces, spears and various American Indian details were worked into ornament. In 1916, The New York Herald praised the Cliff Dwelling’s appearance on a lot that had been considered "only fit for a billboard" and hailed its "made-in-America feeling." The Herald said its name opened up a new horizon for developers who had "exhausted the supply of names and styles from every famous palace, chateau and castle in Europe."

It was an interesting solution to fit a narrow, oddly-shaped lot. All apartments faced towards the Riverside Drive side of the building. CityRealty called it "…New York City’s architectural ode to the Wild West, this narrow and angled building is one of the city’s most eccentric." and noted that the American Institute of Architects had earlier said, it "symbolizes the life of the Arizona cliff dwellers and serves to tie these prehistoric people to Manhattan’s modern cliff dwellers."

It All Gets Confusing

I found plenty of other buildings that had been described as Pueblo Deco, or not. Once again my lack of architectural background made it impossible for me to parse. Was the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe a Pueblo Deco structure, or Pueblo Revival? Was Fort Worth’s Texas & Pacific Railroad Passenger Station Pueblo Deco or Zigzag Moderne Deco? I dunno. Sources differed and I didn’t have the knowledge to make an intelligent judgment. I still enjoyed looking at them.

I didn’t even know Zigzag Moderne was a thing. Maybe I should stick to geography.

Interstate Highway Time Zone Crossings

On April 6, 2014 · 10 Comments

I’ve been noticing search engine queries lately seeking additional information about points along US Interstate Highways where travelers cross from one time zone into another. I’m going to do that myself soon on my upcoming trip and I couldn’t find a comprehensive resource either. Maybe there’s one out there hidden away in a lonely corner of the Intertubes. Maybe not. I didn’t see it so I decided to create my own. Hopefully others will find this compact reference useful too.

Yes, I understand that mobile phones and other networked devices grab time changes automatically without human intervention from nearby cell towers as one drives merrily down the highway. However some of us like to be hyper-prepared before embarking on a journey. I even recorded the lat/long coordinates so travelers (OK, maybe just me…) could drop the waypoints into their GPS receivers and know exactly where the time changes would happen well in advance.

View Interstate Highway Time Zone Changes in a larger map

Readers will want to open this map in another tab or window. It’s not very useful in its present scaled down version that is included for illustrative purposes. Others may prefer the even more detailed Google spreadsheet with links that I prepared. The spreadsheet layout mimicked the geographic footprint of the United States in rough terms, for example I positioned Idaho at the top-left (northwest) and Florida at the bottom-right (southeast). That was also the reason why Interstate numbers on the spreadsheet and the lists below were ordered from large to small (I-94 to I-8). I didn’t reverse the order just to be obstinate. Even-numbered Interstates run roughly west to east across the nation with the 2-digit numbering increasing from south to north. There were also a handful of odd-numbered highways that crossed time zone boundaries too and muddied the construct a bit. Again, the rules applied in general terms only.

This exercise was a lot more tedious than I imagined. Believe me, I’d use much more colorful language if this wasn’t a family-friendly website. I’d assumed quite foolishly that the preponderance of time changes would happen at state borders, and simplify my task. Some do, although many more switch at random county borders which were much more difficult to pinpoint on a map. That’s why I think people have trouble tracking time zones as they drive. Now they have a tool — this page.

Here’s what I found. I’m sure errors or omissions crept into this because it was such a pain to compile. Please let me know and I’ll make corrections.

Change Between Pacific Time and Mountain Time

  • Interstate 90: Idaho <--> Montana
  • Interstate 84: Baker Co., OR <--> Malheur Co., OR
  • Interstate 80: Unincorporated Elko Co., NV <--> West Wendover, Elko Co., NV(1)
  • Interstate 40: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Eastern Arizona <--> SE corner of Navajo Reservation in AZ (Daylight Saving Time)(2)(3)
  • Interstate 15: Nevada <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> Utah (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 10: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); Arizona <--> New Mexico (Daylight Saving Time)(2)
  • Interstate 08: California <--> Arizona (Standard Time); no change during DST(2)(4)

Change Between Mountain Time and Central Time

  • Interstate 94: Stark Co., ND <--> Morton Co., ND
  • Interstate 90: Jackson Co., SD <--> Jones Co., SD
  • Interstate 80: Keith Co., NE <--> Lincoln Co., NE
  • Interstate 70: Sherman Co., KS <--> Thomas Co., KS(5)
  • Interstate 40: New Mexico <--> Texas
  • Interstate 10: Hudspeth Co., TX <--> Culberson Co., TX

Change Between Central Time and Eastern Time

  • Interstate 94: Indiana <--> Michigan
  • Interstate 90: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 85: Alabama <--> Georgia(7)
  • Interstate 80: LaPorte Co., IN <--> St. Joseph Co., IN(6)
  • Interstate 74: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 70: Illinois <--> Indiana
  • Interstate 65: Jasper Co., IN <--> White Co., IN /AND/ Hart Co., KY <--> Larue Co., KY(8)
  • Interstate 64: Perry Co., IN <--> Crawford Co., IN
  • Interstate 59: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 40: Cumberland Co., TN <--> Roane Co., TN
  • Interstate 24: Marion Co., TN <--> Hamilton Co., TN
  • Interstate 20: Alabama <--> Georgia
  • Interstate 10: Jackson Co., FL <--> Gadsden Co., FL

Bonus Roads(9)

  • Western Kentucky Parkway: Grayson Co., KY <--> Hardin Co., KY(10)
  • Cumberland Parkway: Russel Co., KY <--> Pulaski Co., KY(11)


(1) West Wendover is the only part of Nevada that officially observes Mountain Time, primarily so gamblers from Salt Lake City — the nearest large town — won’t have to deal with a time change and can focus on losing their money without distraction. This was described in (West) Wendover: What Time? What State?
(2) Arizona does not recognize Daylight Saving Time, meaning that for practical purposes the spot where the time zone change takes place shifts in the Spring and the Fall. This can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations.
(3) The exception to the "Arizona doesn’t recognize DST rule" is the portion of the sprawling Navajo Nation that crosses into Arizona. The Navajo did this to assert their sovereignty as well as to keep their tri-state Nation on the same time all year.
(4) Interstate 8 extends from San Diego, California to south-central Arizona; fairly short by interstate standards. Therefore it does not experience a time change when the two states observe the same time (i.e, when the Pacific Time Zone switches to DST and Arizona remains on Mountain Standard Time)
(5) I crossed this one during my Dust Bowl trip. See Kansas Mountain Time.
(6) You’re not seeing things. Interstates 80 and 90 are repeated with the same information here. That’s because they’re co-signed at this spot.
(7) Interstate 85 is the best example of an odd-numbered Interstate messing up my chart. The time change happens at a very southern segment of this very eastern highway.
(8) Interstate 65 starts in Central Time in an Indiana suburb of Chicago, switches to Eastern Time as it heads south, then switches back into Central Time in Kentucky
(9) I included Kentucky parkways because they’re significant roads albeit they’re not Interstate highways (not even Secret Interstates). I probably could have added other roads too.
(10) I will be crossing here on an upcoming trip. This was the spot that inspired me to go ahead and compile the list.
(11) I crossed here in the summer of 2013 during my Kentucky Adventures.

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
December 2017
« Nov