Saturday, April 5, 2008
This blog drifts around quite a bit, but basically it is about educating Americans (well, ONE American, at least) about things British. Mostly British slang, but occasionally other things as well. Things that Americans are a little murky about. Like the British flag. Well, maybe you didn't even KNOW you were murky about it. Trust me, you ARE. So read this please.
1. The "Union", when speaking of the parts of a flag (and you WERE speaking of flag parts just now, right?) is the part of the flag in the corner which is usually flown next to the flagpole. On the American flag, the union is that blue part with the stars on it.
2. With the British flag, the problem is (actually it isn't a problem at all, is it?) the flag is ALL union. Hence, what to call it.
3. In flag talk, a "jack" is simply a small flag which is flown on the bow of a ship. This word goes back a long way--probably before 1600.
4. Because Great Britain was (and is) known as being a great naval power, and since its navy flew those small flags, the LARGE flags on land soon began being referred to as "jacks" as well, even though they really weren't because they were LARGE buggers.
5. Even later on, the smaller flags on ships bows began to be referred to as British Jacks or His Majesty's Jack. Note the Capital "J" since we now are dealing with a proper noun.
6. The British flag is (technically at least, but not regularly) simply called "The Union Flag." It has not been changed, by the way, since the 1801 Act of Union.
7. Now we have to talk Latin. The words "de facto" mean that when something has been called by a wrong name by a lot of people for a long time, that wrong name suddenly gets to be considered "right". Amazing. This means that those of you Americans (and British as well--and you know who you are) who have been calling the British flag "The Union Jack" can keep right on doing so.
8. It also means that you purists who have been telling Americans for so long, "You know, it's not really the Union Jack, since it isn't on a ship" can just go climb a wet flagpole.
The following sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with the British flag. I just tried to type "jack" into the "labels for this post" field, and the autocompleter made me put in "jacksie" instead, due to an apparent use in a previous post. I think it was the companion word to "mimzie", and was too vulgar to publish. At any rate, it won't let me use the word "jack" as a category label, so please don't think I am intentionally and rudely trying to call your flag a "jacksie". It's something that is beyond my control, dictated by our beloved Google and blogspot.
9. This information comes from no less an authority than the The Flag Institute, the "vexillological organisation for the United Kingdom" (per Wikipedia at least). Let's all practice that new word until it just rolls off our tongues. Vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological, vexillological. Honest-to-god, I swear, there is a word in the English language that covers "the study of flags." People, we have gone too far with our language. Time to rein it in. If it's any consolation, at least my spell checker says there's no such word. Sadly, there is.
10. Hail Britannia! You rule my waves. Especially your Claire.