Monday, June 14, 2010




: the study of flags

Simple. Concise. The study of flags. Not much breathing room on this one. I wonder—how does one become a VEXILLOLOGIST? Well, according to the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA), anyone can become a member as long as the individual is "interested in VEXILLOLOGY and agrees to subscribe to NAVA's bylaws."

In case YOU are interested, here is NAVA's mission statement:

NAVA pursues vexillology as the scientific study of flags by:
  • bringing into closer cooperation people interested in all aspects of flags such as their history, significance, specifications, use, and manufacture;

  • furthering a strong and growing interest in flags as a serious study or as an avocation;

  • promoting research into the origins, history, and symbolism of flags;

  • publishing on flags and vexillology;

  • formulating standards for flag teminology, methodology, and data recording;

  • studying and providing guidance on flag usage and design through national surveys and guidebooks;

  • cooperating with other vexillological associations, agencies, and research centers, and foundations; and

  • representing vexillologists of North America on an international level.

    In lieu of the fifth point—formulating standards for flag terminology—their website boasts an "Illustrated Dictionary of VEXILLOLOGY," which is actually not very illustrated. Mostly text, but thorough. I should also mention the dictionary is an "on-going project," so perhaps their web-masters have yet to reach the whole "illustrated" part. They're getting there.

    Some terms of note featured in the not-so-illustrated dictionary:

    aspect distortion : the effect of distance on the perception of aspect ratio; for example, a flag with an aspect ratio of 1:1 1/4 may appear square at a distance.

    canton : An area of the field of the flag, set apart by color or design, and located in the upper portion of the field along the attachment edge. As viewed from the "front," this would be the upper left. On the United States national flag it is sometimes called a Union.

    guidon : 1) A swallowtail (q.v.), pennant, or other small flag usually carried at the front of an advancing military force and used for alignment, particularly a cavalry formation; 2) In the military, a soldier carrying such a flag.

    Jolly Roger : The traditional "Jolly Roger" is associated with the pirates of the Atlantic seaboard and Caribbean in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. There were actually many different pirate flags at the time, only a few of which resemble the common "Skull and Crossbones" that we know today. It is believed the name "Jolly Roger" is derived from the French "Joli Rouge" which means the Red cloth. Early records indicate that the red flag was often flown by pirates as meaning "No Quarter Given."

    pressure wave : The movement of a differential in pressure across the surface of a flag. It is the pressure wave that is responsible for a flag "waving in the breeze."

    I enjoy this last entry, although I usually prefer to call it "wind."

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