What would father have done if he had known that that secession flag was made in his house?
—The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, by Eliza Frances Andrews
Of all the cultural ramifications of Atlanta’s Olympic preparation, none provoked more verbal fireworks than the great state flag controversy.
—Georgia Odyssey, by James C. Cobb
Vexillology is the scholarly study of flags. It sure is.
And ever since I was a kid I’ve loved looking at flags in books and wondering what the colors symbolize and why they put a bird there and a cross over there and whatnot. Now, Dixie, you may say that’s so impressive to be a kid and interested in vexillology but I’d say back to you that I was also just as interested in shooting passing cars and the flesh of my friends with my BB gun … and I did … a lot.
So they’ve all been feeling pretty spiffy about finishing the textbook and lately going to Six Flags and testing their paddling and bickering skills on the Ocoee and Nantahala rivers and eating Chinese and American food at the same dang restaurant.
I’ve been promoting the deep joy of vexillology to them for a couple of weeks and how much they’ll really enjoy something new and kind of fun, too. Come to find out, I noticed at the beginning of vexillology week that their attention level is way up and their ears are perked up like BBs are whizzing by. Maybe they just had to get through the end of summer and then the blazingly beautiful fall season and through the chill of our grey winter and well into spring before they felt settled and ready and available for learning.
Today, Old Burrell caught wind of the eminent vexillology lecture action for the week because the kids were real unnerved by the prospect of it and were talking it up around the building and holding each other in comforting embraces, and Old Burrell asked me what the hell vexer-llology meant.
Shocked, stunned, amazed, I told Old Burrell, as if I was talking to a dangerous person, that vexillology was the scholarly study … of flags?
Old Burrell said that should be good for the kids. Vexer-llology.
I believe he burped a little while he was reading some quiz or test or assignment instructions he just grabbed from the printer. I backed away slowly.
Anyway, I started in on the scholarly study of flags today with a passion in my tone and spirit and soul and an unfurling of all kinds of flags I’ve collected in my days on Earth and a look-see at flag books I’ve collected and then I think it hit them that I might, too, be dangerous.
I told them what they’ll need to know for the infamous vexillology examination while they gazed, and became dazed, at my eminent vexillology handout:
- What are the two main things flags do?
- Graphic elements in flags usually do what? The word starts with an “s”
- The earliest known cloth flags were thought to have come from where?
- There are how many recognized countries in the world?
- What’s the name of the dude or chick who carries a flag?
- What do you think is the ratio of our national flag?
- What’s the ratio of a square flag?
- When was the last time the United States flag was changed?
- Can you burn the United States flag and not get in trouble?
- What’s the protocol for when and how you should burn the United States flag?
- Why did the United States flag go through so many changes?
- If I leave the United States flag up during the night, then I should do what to it?
- The study of flags is called what?
Oh, man. They were truly freaked out. Then, when they discovered there was a lot of class time left and I had no intention of dying or suddenly being snatched up by winged monkeys, we continued with basic flag types:
- What’s the name of a flag that has a strip of color that runs along the outer edge of the flag?
- Two bands of color either horizontal or vertical?
- Three bands of different colors either horizontal or vertical?
- A field divided into four different quarters?
- A center cross that divides the field?
- A cross that divides the field where the vertical is to the left of center?
- An X-shaped cross?
- A complete cross surrounded by the field where the arms are equal?
- A triangle of any size or shape?
- A narrow band that acts as a border between two colors?
- A zigzag edge like the teeth on a saw?
- What’s the name of the type of flag … the flag itself … that’s triangular? (a trick question … had to)
- What’s the name of the most famous pirate flag?
- What type of animal does the word “pennon” come from?
And they think they’re going to get away from me before we talk about flag and flag pole parts? Oh, ye gods, I think not:
- So anyway, what’s the ornamental knob on top of the flagstaff called?
- What’s another name for the pole?
- What’s the round mechanical device called that allows the flag to pulled up and down?
- The rope or cord used to raise the flag is called what?
- The metal ring used to secure the clip to the flag is called what?
- The inner, lower left portion of the flag nearest the flag pole is called what?
- The top quarter of the flag nearest the flag pole is called what?
- What’s the outer part of the flag called?
- An emblem in the center of the flag is called what?
- The background area of the flag? What the heck’s is that thing called?
- What’s another name for the background area of a flag?
- What’s the name of your favorite teacher?
Is vexillology righteous, or what? Then I politely asked them to do some hellacious research on the history of the Gadsden flag … to do some butt-kicking investigation on the history of the Jolly Roger … to do a bunch of assiduous study on marine signal flags and to memorize a few of their messages … to consider spending an enormous amount of time going through the web site of the North American Vexillological Association … and heck, yes … a whole bunch of brisk memorization on United States flag etiquette. Remember kids, this is what you call a laptop school. We all got Internet access and laptop computers and the handout I just gave you that I typed up with your education and happiness in mind. Seek knowledge there in your laptops! Enjoy!
Herman, who was now sweating and sporting a couple of crimson cheeks, said, very breathlessly, as he took his glasses off and before I think he expected to lose consciousness … Boy, Todd, we sure do have a lot to learn about vexi-llow-logy!
What I think the breathless Herman really wanted to say was … Boy, Todd, speaking for everyone, we sure do hate your greasy guts and wish you’d drop dead immediately and go to hell!
I borrowed a funny line from Dill from way back in the historic fall semester. I told Herman I’d be here all week.
Next Entry ... May 7: Weary Syllabary