Vexillology, one of those funny looking words that is near impossible to spell. But what does it mean? A fear of something maybe? A research field perhaps?
Well as you’d probably guess Vexillology relates to flags. More specifically the scientific study of flags and related emblems… and yes that is a field of study! A vexillologist is involved with the study and research into flags new and old.
Vexillology although quite a niche field can be very significant… who remembers the time the Prime Minister flew the Union Jack upside down?! Incorrect flying of flags can create a media frenzy – as in that case! The work of vexillologists is concerned with the creation of a body of practice for flag design and appropriate usage.
A key aim for vexillology is to explain the usage of flags past and present and understand their significance in times gone by and the part they may play in modern society.
Vexillology as a word is derived from the Latin vexillum, a term used by the Romans to refer to a kind of standard with a fabric hung from a horizontal crossbar on a pole. It is the nearest equivalent in the classical languages to what we call a flag today.
Vexillology is not exclusively studied in the UK, there are societies studying this unusual field all around the globe. These societies are widely known as “vexillological associations”. Taking this one step further each of these societies answers to the FIAV. FIAV? The International Federation of Vexillological Associations – yes there is a governing body ruling over all flag laws.
Although, this all seems a little grand considering we are talking about essentially flying a piece of fabric on a white stick. However, incorrect flying can be deemed offensive and inappropriate. The study and flags and creating a standard precedence gives us all something to refer to in the case of unusual world events – vexillology is essentially about helping us fly flags correctly.