Q&A – Story vs Storey?

Each week, we chat about the quirks & anomalies of the English language. In fact, if English were a building, it would have many storeys and many stories to tell…

Q: Well hello there AWC.
A: How’s your week been?
Q: I’ve been helping a friend move house. The elevator was broken and she lives on the fifth story.
A: You mean fifth storey.
Q: Do I?
A: Here in Australia you do.
Q: I love how you chose to ignore the fact I carried a refrigerator down all those stairs and went with the story/storey thing.
A: You’re welcome, it’s what we do.
Q: Anyway, I’m sure I was reading something the other day which spelt it as ’storey' in the same context.
A: Yes, quite possibly. So… shall we do this?
Q: Do you mean devote this week’s Q&A to “story vs storey”? Well of course – I’ve already put the picture and the heading up above us. Spoiler alert.
A: Ah, so you have. Okay, well, let’s do this then. Actually, this one is a fairly open and shut case.
Q: Like in movies where they do a ransom exchange and the baddies check all the money is in the briefcase? That kind of open and shut case?
A: No.
Q: Oh, okay. So let me guess, it’s another “they do this differently in America” thing again.
A: You got it. In America, they don’t use the spelling “storey” like we do in Australia for floors of a building; they simply use the same “story” spelling for everything.
Q: Wow, so I guess that’s what I must have read – something written in America.
A: Most likely. And it actually makes children’s books such as Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s latest, The 65-story Treehouse, even cleverer in the US, because there’s a cute double meaning.
Q: Oooooh, so in Australia it’s the 65-storey treehouse, but America it’s 65-story? That’s interesting.
A: Yes, the American word nerds certainly would get an extra thrill out of it.
Q: Except that the book doesn’t actually contain 65 stories.
A: Well no. Just the treehouse. But hey, if you like the series, check out the interview we did with author Andy Griffiths.
Q: You’re just the gift that keeps on giving.
A: We try.
Q: So, wait, is the plural to “storey” therefore “storeys”?
A: Yeah, we’d recommend you use “storeys” to avoid any ambiguity whatsoever. However, Macquarie Dictionary actually lists both “storeys” and “stories”, so technically you could use either. Obviously, in America you would only use “stories”.
Q: So earlier when I said my friend lived on the fifth story, you probably thought she lived in a library, right?
A: No, we figured it out. We’re good like that. Where does she live now?
Q: In a library.
A: Oh. Okay.
Q: It’s two-storeyed. Wait, or is it two-storied?
A: The adjective is exactly the same rule as the plural – and again, we’d suggest going with the first one – “storeyed” – in Australia. And remember, if it all gets too hard, just replace the word with “floors”!
Q: Good point. Okay then, it looks like storey-time is over for another week…

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