Matt Peperell's Blog

V is for "Vexillology"

Written: 25 Apr 2024 (Index by date)

Tags: a-to-z  (Index by tag)

Today’s challenge letter is V and the topic I’ve chosen is Vexillology. Wossat? It’s the study of flags. I hesitate to call it an interest of mine, since that feels like an exaggeration but it’s still worthy of mention.

When I was in school (I reckon this was sometime around 1990, based on the room I was in), one of the posters on the wall was flags of the world. I remember noticing that there was one monochromatic flag.

Flag of Libya, 1977–2011

This was Libya, as the flag was then. (It’s since been updated)

Many years later my dad took an interest in sailing. Part of the learning materials was to learn the maritime signalling flags. Being the curious and information-hungry person that I was (and still am!), I took an interest and learned a few of them. At the time, several of them stood out to me:

The letter A:
Maritime flag for the letter "A"

The letter B:
Maritime flag for the letter "B"

The numerals 0-9. As an example, here is “2”
Maritime flag for the numeral "2"

I can still remember some of them now, along with their meanings. I have never sailed, only ever having been a passenger. Strange, the things one remembers.

Another type of flag is one used for communities. Probably the most well known of these is the Pride flag created by artist Gilbert Baker in 1979.

1979 Pride Flag

There have been several variations of this flag over the years, additionally numerous other groups within the queer community have their own flags such as the trans pride flag – enough to write an entire post.

Another community flag (not part of the queer umbrella), and significantly less well known, is this one:

Esperanto Flag

This one is the Esperanto flag – Esperanto being one of the languages I speak.

A couple of years ago I stumbled on the flag of Nepal.

Flag of Libya, 1977–2011

It’s not an overly new flag; it was adopted in 1962. But what very much caught my interest was not only that non-rectangular, nor that it’s ornate, but also that its construction is mathematical in nature and codified in their consitution. If you’re so inclined, get a ruler, a pen, and a piece of paper and give it a go. Or you can use Geogebra.

I’ve mentioned 3 types of flag here: Community, Country and Maritime. On a couple of occasions over the past few years I’ve run a quiz (or sometimes only a round in a quiz) and the questions took the form of: “Is this flag that of a country, a community or a maritime signal?”. Feel free to copy this idea!

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