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Dictionary of Vexillology: Introduction

Introduction

Last modified: 2013-05-20 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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This Dictionary has its origins in the inconclusive discussions on the FOTW mailing list concerning flag definitions that occurred in May and June of 2005. As a result, we three contributors formed ourselves off-list into a voluntary and unofficial international committee in an attempt to find a series of simple descriptive conventions upon which everybody could agree. Any such list, of course, had to be flexible enough to allow for individual expression, yet at the same time be easily understood, precise in description and immediately understandable. It became at once apparent, however, that the study of flags had a number of ‘grey areas’ which made the task practically impossible without a solid basis of vexillological definition, and that no such base actually existed! The definitions given below are, therefore, the result of our deliberations via E-mail over several months, and each reflects a consensus honed after careful thought and considerable intra-committee discussion.

At the start of this process, one of the first guiding principles we adopted was “keep it simple”, and whilst we have never lost sight of that admirable precept, the very richness and complexity of the subject matter and the need to be comprehensive has sometimes been an overriding factor. Wherever possible we have tried to offer at least one precise interpretation of a particular entry as well as any generic meanings, and we have also made it a point to retain well-known and/or traditional definitions, as well as any possible or historic alternatives.

It should be emphasized however, that the definitions given in this Dictionary are applicable only to English language vexillology, and the foreign terms we have incorporated are those that have been adopted for use in English. Our non-English speaking colleagues are, of course, encouraged to make free use of these definitions as needed in the compilation of similar dictionaries in their own languages.

The Editors also acknowledge the spelling differences between English speakers in the US, and those elsewhere. Where considered appropriate, both spellings of a word or term are indicated.

The etymology of the word ‘flag’ is the subject of some debate amongst writers on vexillology, and these same writers offer quite widely differing interpretations of how the word should be defined. The Editors, therefore, have defined ‘flag’ only in the most generic and non-restrictive of terms, considering it both more useful and more productive to define flags individually by their varying types and/or usage.

We also took note of the fact that vexillology and heraldry are closely linked disciplines, and that a large number of flags, as well as their associated terms, are based upon or derived from heraldic symbols and heraldry in general. A work such as this must of necessity therefore, include many of these heraldic terms whose origin lies in archaic Norman French. As the list of these terms given in the Dictionary will contain many gaps, it is accordingly suggested (as is also suggested frequently throughout the text) that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry – such as that to be found on-line at haraldsnet.org - be consulted if further or more detailed information is required.

Unlike the terms used in heraldry however, those employed in vexillology are still evolving, with new terms being created or borrowed from various sources, and others falling out of use. It has therefore been our intention to capture those that have been – or are in the course of being - established in common vexillological usage. There are basically two ways in which a word or phrase has entered the Dictionary - firstly through being recorded in a published source, and/or secondly, by established usage. Vexillology is, however, a developing discipline with new words or terms being introduced or re-defined at frequent intervals without, as yet, being formally recorded or (perhaps more importantly) having acquired any consistent usage pattern. The Editors have, therefore, listed (and could consequently only list) their creator’s original definition. There have, in addition, been a very small number of situations where no suitable existing term could be found, and the Editors themselves have been compelled to introduce a proposal (whilst at the same time recording the fact that they have done so).

Finally, in preparing this Dictionary the Editors are greatly indebted to Joe McMillan and Željko Heimer for their insightful criticism and extensive material contributions to the final product. Similarly, the Editors would like to extend their grateful thanks to Phil Nelson, Santiago Dotor and Michael Faul for the trouble they took to review and comment on their work. They also freely acknowledge their additional debt to the vexillological and heraldic expertise of Messrs. Crampton, Elvin, Gregg, Inglefield, Lister, Parker, Pedersen, Perrin, Smith, Wilson, Znamierowski and others - to NAVA, and of course, to the invaluable contributions by other members of the FOTW mailing list.

Editors:

Andries Burgers †
Terence Martin
Christopher Southworth

December 2005

† - deceased

Since we began to compile the Dictionary of Vexillology there have been a number of changes. Not least of these changes was the much regretted death of Andries Bergers, one our original Editors, however, we would take this opportunity of welcoming Željko Heimer who very gallantly stepped into the breach and now forms an integral and valued member of our team.

It became apparent that the sheer number of banners of arms, or of heraldically derived flags in general, required that the Dictionary must go much, much further into the world of heraldry than had been initially envisaged, and has thus expanded accordingly.

In addition there proved to be far more types (both of flag and of charges) for which no suitable descriptive term existed than was originally thought, and we have continued the original policy of suggesting a possibility in the hope that it would prove suitable to our colleagues.
Christopher Southworth, on behalf of the editors, 14 January 2013


The Dictionary of Vexillology Editorial Policy

Editorial Philosophy

The editors of the Dictionary of Vexillology function as objective recorders of all vexillological and closely associated terms which are discovered, whether as direct entries into the DoV, or as entries on a Provisional List when the status of a term or word is in doubt. The editors are not to allow their personal prejudice or dislike of a word or term to colour their decision on the inclusion or exclusion of a word or term, provided such included terms or words fulfil the criteria established below.

Editorial Procedure

Any member of the editorial team may suggest an entry and or definition, or forward any such suggestion from another vexillologist. The group secretary will then prepare or edit a draft entry for consideration by the other Editors and this is discussed and amended until a consensus has been reached or if necessary if a consensus cannot be reached, approved or rejected by majority vote.

Words and Terms

A word or term is listed in the DoV if it meets one or more of the following criteria (listed in order of credibility):

  1. Recorded by a written source considered credible by the Editors.
  2. Established by relatively consistent usage by vexillologists
  3. Proposed by the Editors, but only if no word or term to cover the relevant item exists, and that any such proposal is prominently identified.

Definitions

Definitions are not invented by the Editors. The function of the Editors is to record definitions that have been discovered in one or more written sources, and/or that have been established by consistent usage. The Editors are not to invent new definitions or knowingly expand or restrict definitions beyond their current usage.

Vexillology is relatively new, and as such, terms are still evolving, and new terms are being created and borrowed from various sources, and others are falling out of use. In the case of newly invented or redefined words or terms (and in the absence of evidence fitting criteria A or B above) the only definition that may be recorded – that is until a consistent alternative usage pattern is established - is that of the original inventor of any such word or term.


FOTW Editorial Policy and Notes

This presentation originally appeared in a different format and all attempts to retain the original formatting have been made by the FOTW editors. This is a work in progress and as such may change as corrections, deletions and additions are made. Major changes are noted on a separate page.

The FOTW editor has attempted to keep the number of links outside of the presentation to a minimum, when needed to link to areas where additional information may be important to the reader.

All references to the word "editors" in this work refer to Andries Burgers, Terence Martin and Christopher Southworth who are the sole authors of this work.

Artistic credits in the document are as follows:

  • (fotw) - the image originated in a form on the FOTW website.
  • (CS) - Christopher Southworth
  • (AB) - Andries Burgers
  • (TM) - Terrence Martin
  • (Bartram) - Graham Bartram
  • (Grieve) - Martin Grieve

The document may also use images from other sources, particularly heraldic material, which is identified by the author's name, i.e. Parker.

[Ed.]