I'm currently as happy as … well, something that's very happy, because I just learned a whole bunch of new "stuff." This all came about when, a week or so ago, I started re-watching all of the new Doctor Who
episodes starting with "Rose" from 2005.
In fact, I was watching one last night where someone mentioned "The Union Jack"
(the national flag of the United Kingdom) and Rose noted that it should more properly be called "The Union Flag"; also that "Union Jack" should only be used if the flag was flying on one of Her Majesty's Warships.
Well, I'm always interested in discovering something new, so a few minutes ago I bounced over to the Wikipedia to learn more (Click Here
to visit the Union Jack page on the Wikipedia). From there I became embroiled in a delightful morass of terminology, including works like Blazon
, which is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag, or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image.
As the Wikipedia says:
The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag traditionally has considerable latitude in design, while a blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements; thus it can be said that a coat of arms or flag is primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon.
Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. This language has its own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax (rules governing word order), which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.
As you may or may not know, the Union Jack is actually formed from three major elements: The red St. George's Cross
, the white diagonal St. Andrew's Cross
(not to be confused with the white "fimbriation"), and the red diagonal St. Patrick's Cross
(the blue parts are actually the background, which – according to the Wikipedia entry for Blazon – is actually referred to as the "field").
I don’t know why, but I love all of this stuff, such as learning the meaning behind word like fimbriation
, which I now know refers to small stripes of color (technically called "tincture" in this sense in heraldry) placed around "common charges" or "ordinaries." This is usually in order to make the "common charges" stand out from the "field" (background), but may be used "just because the designer felt it looked better," or to avoid what would otherwise be a violation of the heraldic "rule of tincture."
In order to explain what I mean, the "fimbriation" of the "ordinaries" is highlighted in yellow in the following depiction of the Union Jack:
Quite apart from anything else, this is also the first time I really understood how to tell whether the Union Jack is being flown the right way up, or not:
The correct way to fly the Union Jack (top) and the incorrect way (bottom).
The thing is that the Union Jack does not have reflection symmetry due to the slight pin-wheeling of the St Patrick's and St Andrew's crosses (technically the "counterchange of saltires"). The end result is that there is a right side up and a wrong side up. To fly the flag correctly, the white of St Andrew should be above
the red of St Patrick in the "upper hoist canton" (the quarter at the top nearest to the flag-pole).
I remember first hearing about this as a kid. I was watching an episode of some cowboy program like Bonanza
or High Chaparral
(I forget which). The bad guys had taken an old Englishman captive in his cabin, but our heroes worked out that something was wrong because he'd hoisted his Union Jack upside down. Now that I understand, I will certainly keep a watchful eye open whilst on my travels so as to quickly detect if any skullduggery is afoot.
I tell you, you can really get sucked into all of this stuff. For example, do you know why the canton of the flag of Hawaii contains the Union Flag of the United Kingdom, prominent over the top quarter closest to the flag mast (this is the only U.S. state flag to feature the Union Flag)?
The flag of Hawaii
If you wish to learn why this should be, all I can say is Click Here
to visit the appropriate page on the Wikipedia, but don’t blame me if you get sucked into the ensuing "Informational vortex of no return"…
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