The use of the term 'grey literature' within the archaeological vocabulary is an interesting historiographical study. It is not a discipline-specific term, but originates from the library and information science communities (see Falkingham 2005). The phrase itself has long held a fascination for all disciplines, implying varying shades of ambiguity based on the interpretation of the 'grey' element (Roth 2010). Indeed, as Schöpfel (2011) notes, the pivotal work on grey literature – Charles Auger's (1975) Use of Reports Literature – somewhat ironically does not actually include the term once. It is only with the later publication Information Sources in Grey Literature (Auger 1989) that the phrase is coined, describing a range of elusive and often temporary materials such as conference proceedings and speeches that were not to be found through traditional publishers, yet still part of the academic communication medium. Indeed, grey seems both to pertain to its liminal publication status as well as its intellectual appeal to the brains' grey matter (Mason n.d.), and the academic advantages of grey over 'white' publication, such as 'greater speed, greater flexibility and the opportunity to go into considerable detail' (Auger 1989, 3).
The term soon crossed over into the archaeological sphere; as Seymour (2010b) notes, it is referenced within Cultural Resource Management documents in the United States in the early 1990s. Across the Atlantic, the exact point at which 'grey literature' became used in the UK to replace existing terms such as 'archive' reports is somewhat opaque. The distinctive nomenclature is not used within any of the contemporary reports on publication and dissemination strategies released in the 1990s (Carver et al. 1992; English Heritage 1991), or the initial survey of Research Frameworks by English Heritage (Olivier 1996). It may, however, have its roots in York, being used, within quotation marks, in the editorial of the very first issue of Internet Archaeology to denote the hard-copy reports produced as part of the split between archive and publication (Vince 1996). A contemporary review of reporting procedures in England, although not using the term 'grey', describes thus:
'… the circulation of such reports is very poor, rendering archaeological information inaccessible and limiting opportunities for peer review … assessment reports lacked the sort of basic information that would make cataloguing and indexing easy. Even where reports were deposited in public records, retrieval was often difficult. In addition, the format of reports varied considerably and frequently lacked useful information such as source lists and copies of the brief and/or specification which informed the assessment work.' (English Heritage 1995, 16).
It seems that the term was not yet ubiquitous; 'grey literature' does not appear within the important overview of investigative trends based on analysis of unpublished fieldwork reports of the 1990s (Darvill and Russell 2002). However, it had gained enough recognition by the turn of the millennium to be defined in the Council for British Archaeology's report (also published in York) on archaeological publication: 'those reports that are not issued for public sale or widespread distribution' (Jones et al. 2001). It is interesting to note that the same publication identified a marked ignorance within the community about what actually constitutes grey literature, as well as unawareness as to the extent of the genre (Jones et al. 2001). Despite, or perhaps because of, this ambiguity the term gained prominence, and through works such as Bradley's (2006) seminal paper on the split between research and developer-funded fieldwork becomes synonymous with the range of reports created through commercial investigations. Through this association, as grey has become embedded in the vernacular, the term has increasingly been used as an indicator not only of the unpublished nature, but also of perceptions of quality and availability (Aitchison 2010, 237; Chadwick 1998).