How is your vexillology?

Grungy United States Flag
I’m continually amazed at what people spend their time studying and learning. I suppose it stands to reason that a name would have to be associated with one’s field of study or interest. Someone keenly interested in studying living organisms has on their business card, “Biologist”, not “dude who studies plants.”

Imagine, then, a mom who yells down the hall toward a closed bedroom door asking, “What are you doing in there?” Now, which is the cooler answer: “I’m studying flags” or “Nothing, Mom… just some vexillology.” Vexillology (coming from the Latin for flag or banner), the study of flags, will definitely get more interest.

Flags do indeed have a rich history that is worthy of study. Starting as a way for military personnel to have some organization on the battlefield, flags today are much more than military identification or insignia. We even have a holiday to celebrate our flag here in the U.S.A. Flags are pretty pervasive in our society. However, I won’t bore you with any more vexillological references (that’s what is for) but I do want to share two fun flag facts and one anecdote from my personal travels.

2 Fun Flag Facts

Flag of Nepal
Flag of Nepal
1. The Flag of Nepal is the only national flag that is not quadrilateral. This is fun to me because I like organizations that aren’t constrained by normality and choose to do things their own way. It kinda looks like a profile of a mountain… or half of a Christmas Tree.
2. The flags of the United States were apparently NOT designed to… well, most simply were not designed well. From a design perspective, Colorado’s and New Mexico’s state flags are excellent (Texas, Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina are pretty good too). Personal pet peeve of mine is when too much information or complicated information is put onto a sign (or banner, or flag, or business card, etc.). This is sadly the case for nearly half of the U.S. Flags. Putting your state seal or other complicated and detailed rendering (say, like a pelican feeding her young on a nest… really, Louisiana? C’mon, you’re better than that) on your flag does not make a good flag. For a look at what does make a good flag check out the North American Vexillological Association (warning: designing flags they can do, designing websites… not so much)

1 Flag Anecdote

Flag of the Peoples Republic of China
Flag of the Peoples Republic of China
I had the opportunity to spend a summer in mainland China a few years ago. As with most first time cross cultural immersions, this experience definitely challenged my perception of the Chinese culture and our own American culture. One of the things I found fascinating was the lack of flags being displayed in residences, on clothing and in advertisements. Look anywhere in the United States and you’ll find flags on T-shirts, in front yards, hanging from porches, as backgrounds for ads, etc. We simply love our flag.

On first glance, I was shocked that the Chinese weren’t as nearly patriotic as we proud Americans are. Oh, but I was wrong. Chinese are just as patriotic as Americans, their flag simply isn’t as much a part of their culture as it is here. Think about it this way: they have 5,000 years of cultural development of which they are supremely proud while their flag has only been around for the last 60 years or so. Our flag, on the other hand, is interwoven into the fabric (poetic, I know) of our national identity. It has historical significance to our very founding as a nation. It is a visible representation of our independence.

Almost forgot

We do sell flags.

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One Response

  1. Rich Radebaugh

    Wow now I know what you do all day long. Very impressive so if I am evey in need for a word of the day I will contact you.

    Very impressive.