Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

You’re so Vane, I’ll bet you think this Flag is about you.

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

OK. Technically, “weathercock” means “a weather vane in the form of a cock”, but we thought this image was way cooler.

Several months ago, one of our favorite websites,, had as their “Word for the Day”, the word “Vane“. (Not to be confused with vain or vein.) Seems pretty simple.

Although there are a few definitions, most all of them pertain to something that moves in the wind. But wait. There’s more.

One of our other favorite sites, the Online Etymology Dictionary, gives a little more depth to the discussion, to wit:

[“Vane” entered the English language] early [in the] 15[th ] c[entury]., [as a ]southern England alteration … of fane “flag, banner.”

Darth VaderYou knew of course, Dear Reader, that “F” and “V” were/are often confused. Consider – SPOILER ALERT – Darth Vader <- “Dark Father”.

Alas, once again, I digress.

It seems that “fane”, meaning “weathercock”, came to us late in the 14th century, from the Old English fana “flag, banner”, from Proto-Germanic *fanon” (cf. Old Frisian fana, Gothic fana “piece of cloth”, Old High German fano, German Fahne “flag, standard”); possibly cognate with Latin pannus “piece of cloth” (see pane). (Not, we presume, to be confused with pain.)

Now we here at smALL FLAGs eschew job titles, but in some places that seems to be required: consequently, I’ve long used the title “Fahnen Meister”. Get it? Fade to dark.

French Flag Puzzle?

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Don’t you just love it when three of your passionate interests collide? (Perhaps that’s not the mot juste considering our last two posts.)

We like to start off our Sunday Mornings with NPR’s Sunday Puzzle with Will Shortz.

NPR's Sunday PuzzleImagine our surprise when today’s “On-air Challenge” was entitled “Saluting The Flag” and the contestant was from Portland, Oregon (our nearest large-ish city)!

Frankly, as On-air Challenges go, it wasn’t one of their hardest, but thematically, it fit well with today (and tomorrow’s) honoring of Veterans Day. (Thank you, Vets!) View the Car Badges, Decals, Flags, Keyrings, Mini Banners, Mugs, Patches, Pins, Posters, Sunglasses, Ties, Umbrellas and Windsocks on your smALL FLAGs store showcase site.

Another Sunday tradition of ours is doing the big New York Times Crossword. (Thank you again, Will Shortz.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All the fun ones were French words pronounced and used as though they were English words. Really fun!

Now I ask you, what could be more fun? Puzzles, Flags and Languages. What a great way to spend 11/11. (Almost at 11:11.)

Princess Grace and the Monégasque – and Poland?

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Grace KelleyA few nights ago, Oregon Public Broadcasting showed an olde (1987) video about the lovely, late Princess Grace of Monaco. Thank you, OPB. During the show the word Monégasque was mentioned – more than a few times. Well it turns out that Monégasque is the demonym or gentilic for those folks who live in Monaco; it also refers to their language, etc. (For a related issue, research the difference between the words Toponymy and Ethnonym.) Note: this is driving spell check crazy too. For your edification, there’s a lovely reference to the Monégasque language on

Although fascinated by the language, we were of course, Dear Reader, all ready to apply it to the national flag of Monaco. So, first a little background: Grace Kelley married into the Grimaldi family. Their heraldic colors of red and white are attested as far back as 1339. The national flag was adopted on April 4th, in that palindromic year of 1881. So far, so good. They, well not Grace, of course, selected the proportions of 4:5, so, it looks like this:

Flag of Monaco

Flag of Monaco - proportions 4:5

Nice. Simple. However, on August 1st of that not quite palindromic year 1919, the Polish Parliament, of all folks, adopted the national flag of Poland.

Flag of Poland

Flag of Poland - proportions 8:5

Fairly similar, would you say? Ah, but notice the proportions: 5:8 is so different from 4:5. Right? Well, to be fair, Poland had been using those same red and white colors since the XVII-XIX centuries. Still not as long as the Monégasque, but quite a while. Yet, the location of those colors was not always fixed. That is, sometimes the red was on the top! Furthermore, sometimes the flag includes an Eagle from the state seal. (No eagle-seal animal jokes here now.) Lots of controversy about the length and color of the bird’s talons, arrangement of feathers, crown or no crown, etc. (No worries, we carry flags and patches of Poland’s flag both with and without the eagle.)

End of controversy? Oh, no, Dear Reader. On the 17th of August, 1947 (no jokes), Indonesia – yes that nation on the other side of the globe from both Monaco and Poland – decided to adopt their flag.

Flag of Indonesia

Flag of Indonesia - proportions 3:2

Now the Indonesian national flag is called “Sang Saka Merah Putih”. (Guess that’s because “Merah-Poetih” means “Red-White”. Go figure.) At least no eagles or suchlike.

Let’s all just cross our fingers that Monaco, Poland and Indonesia never go to war against each other. Field identification might be a little tricky. Not to mention that time-honored tradition of flying ones flag upside-down to indicate distress. Goodness.

All that from a public television show? My, how the mind can travel.

Alter lingua, alter persona.

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Now we understand some of the principles of business and we understand some of the principles of the concept of Freedom of Speech, but spam … ? Whadda gonna do? Filter as much as you can and deal with the rest. Call it peculiar, but we keep separate folders for spam that sneaks through in foreign languages – it’s amusing to study. OK. It’s peculiar.

One spam got through our filters that did catch our eye; it was an “opportunity” to learn to speak English – supposedly from Cambridge (University, we assume) – and it was written all in Spanish. Well that’s a fine notion.  We all need to learn a few more languages. Seems that the Romans (who had a saying for just about everything apparently) said, “Alter lingua, alter persona.” (“Another language, another person.”) Meaning that one can’t learn a language without becoming in some sense another person; that is, to learn a language, one must also learn the history, the humor, the literature, the religion, the politics, etc. of the people who speak that language as a native tongue. More about that later, back to this spam. Included was one beautiful (to our eye) image:

Learn English language flags

Not really too colorful – mostly red, white and blue – but very “active” looking. Let’s look a little deeper. Of course there’s the largest flag of the UK, the US waving into Canada, and subtly below are (left to right) images of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Saltire, (perhaps that’s the tip of the tail of the Welsh dragon – Y Ddraig Goch) and Guernsey.

Conspicuously missing are flags of, perhaps, Australia and New Zealand, Ireland; heck, why not throw in India and a few others? Perhaps it would be to “cluttered”. There are a lot of countries that speak English as a major language. It might be an interesting exercise to design a similar graphic of a the francophone countries’ flags or (what’s the word for) Spanish language speaking country flags. Nice idea. Point being that there’s not a much better way to symbolize all those countries than with their flags. Symbols speak volumes, and flags are powerful symbols.

Back to that idea of native tongues, we’d like to give a little plug to our friends at Morsmål (that’s Norwegian for mother tongue or something like that). From their website:

Morsmål is an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO.
A multilingual information portal and a meeting place for bilingual researchers, teachers, parents and pupils.

Morsmål logo They’re pretty proud about the fact that they just passed the 700 mark of folks who have “liked” their Facebook page. Go on. Check ’em out. You’ll like ’em.

Cross(word) flags

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Seems as though when one is anticipating having a new child, there are new-born babies everywhere. Looking to buy a new car? The very same model seems to drive by incessantly. For us, of course, it’s flags. They’re everywhere!

NYT Crossword No. 1119

Enjoying some well-earned (well, earned possibly) time off, the wife and I settled into a tricky little crossword puzzle at brunch on Christmas Day. (For you crossword cognoscenti, this was the syndicated version – of tNYT Crossword 1119 detailhe crossword, not the brunch.) We were stumbling along pretty well down to the bottom right corner when we discovered #55 Across: 5 letters – “Place for a small flag”. Well, that should be easy we thought: we considered “GRAVE”, “TABLE”, “ALTAR”; shoot, I even tried misspelling “ARIAL”. But no, Victor Fleming, the author/designer of this puzzle wanted “LAPEL”. [Side note: our Canadian friends (and doubtless others) pronounce this with the emphasis on the first syllable; most swimmers in our local linguistic pool emphasize the second.]

Now of course we realize that the lapel of a jacket is certainly one place for a small flag. Heck, we sell lots of them.Friendship Lapel Pin of US and Norway Lapel Pins crossed with the US flag or just the single flag of every country and state. But enough of the commercial; that’s not why you read this fascinating text – right? It’s for the amusing content – of course.

So what amused me whilst writing all of this for you is the blog I found written by one William Ernest Butler who, after giving us all that name, enjoins us to call him “Bill”. Well “Bill” seems to be what one might call a crossword “nut”. His blog site not only shows us his solution (including how long it took him to solve the puzzle – “24m 04s” – we must trust him I guess; it doesn’t appear to be independently verified), but he also gives enormous detail about the answers – complete with photos, examples, history, etc. – for ‘most every answer except #55 Across.

What? He couldn’t think of anything edifying about “LAPEL”. Heck, here I’ve written an entire blog just about that item which he ignominiously skips over. C’mon, “Bill”. Flags, Lapel Pins. What could be more deserving of attention?

Ah well, different strokes …

More Flags, Soccer and Languages?

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

The flag of Slovenia

The flag of Slovakia

Thank goodness for Google alerts. We just discovered a delightful blog site written by someone with apparently similar views about some subjects that are near and dear to our hearts. Yes: Flags, Soccer and Languages. (Warning: The site may be considered by some as rated somewhat “mature”.) Also, the author seems to have a bit of a bias towards Slovenia. 🙂 That said, it’s really a well-written explanation about the differences between the two countries depicted above.

After all those caveats, here’s the link.

A couple of interesting points: he mentions the capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana. We actually have a customer from Ljubljana. He also mentions the upcoming World Cup match between Slovenia and the United States. Go USA! That’s our bias.

Drums and Flags and World Cup and Languages

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

OK. Not to beat a theme to death, but after all, it is the WORLD CUP, n’est pas?

‘Vuma! Unity, harmony, goal!’
There are lots and lots of links to this FIFA WC song: for example, “A Durham University researcher composed the song by using a new ‘language’ for African drums.” However this link has some particularly nice explanatory comments about the lyrics – with translations (and no distracting ads).

You may not realize, dear reader, that in addition to being a vexilloglist, I’m also passionate about linguistics and ethnomusicology – and, obviously, big words. So naturally I was interested in music composed using the language of drums. The fact that it’s also connected to the World Cup – well, that’s just sweet.

Speaking of linguistics, one of the voices we follow on Twitter is that of “morsmål“. Their Bio: “Non-government and non-profit organization (est. 2003) advocating multilingual and multicultural education via: news, information and resources.” Check out their website. They’re “an NGO maintaining official relations with UNESCO”. And don’t let the fact that they’re a Norwegian Norwegian flagoutfit put you off; they’re pretty cool – if you dig languages like we do. And no, “morsmål” doesn’t mean “more smALL”, according to an Internet translator, it means “native”. Hmm. So “morsmål flagg” Doesn’t mean “more smALL FLAGs”; I guess it would mean “native flags”. That’s pretty cool too.

South African flags in side mirror of car Speaking of flags and the World Cup (guess what this is all about), a recent “Google Alert” brought us to an interesting posting to a South African mom’s blog site called, “ohfortheloveofblog: blog like nobody’s reading”. It’s kind of cute and we thought we’d share. Seems that this WC-flag connection is not just a figment of our imagination. “Feeling the vibe”; indeed.