Monday, August 09, 2010

vexilological vexation

So I was trawling through Wikipedia, as you do, trying to find a suitable link to attach to my tangential mention of the Irish flag for that last book review. On the way there I stopped off at the general page for tricolour flags of all nations, and on scrolling down to the Irish flag noticed how different the proportions seemed to be from the Italian flag next to it, and the Belgian flag above it. Just a bit of careless image manipulation, I thought, but not a bit of it; in addition to the usual specifications about which colours to put where and which way up to hang it each nation's flag bears some specific instructions about what you might call the aspect ratio as well.

Now you might assume (as I did) that these will all be the same, but, again, not a bit of it; while there are some commonly-used ratios there are more variations than you can shake a stick at:
  • The good old Union Flag has an aspect ratio of 1:2, as do many other flags including the aforementioned Irish one, and also Azerbaijan, Croatia and Ethiopia.
  • Lots of others have the slightly squarer ratio of 2:3, including lots of the standard European stalwarts like France, Italy and Romania.
  • Lots more use the pretty similar 3:5 ratio, including those dastardly Germans, but also many more such as Lithuania and Paraguay, and also the St. George's flag, which means they have to stretch it horizontally by 20% to make it fit on the Union Flag.
2:3 and 3:5 seem to be the most common ones, with 1:2 not far behind. My theory is that these are the two simple ratios that most closely approximate the golden section, with all the mythical flim-flam about it being most pleasing to the eye, and all that tommyrot. Plenty of others are available, though, including (in rough, but by no means exact, progression from squarer to rectangularer):
A quick burst of general flag trivia to finish - since I'm not "flagging" yet, hahahahaha:
  • Libya's is the only flag to be just a solid block of colour (it's green)
  • Wales, Bhutan and Malta have dragons on theirs
  • Moldova, Saudi Arabia and Paraguay are the only double-sided flags, i.e. where designs on obverse and reverse differ
  • Nepal's is the only one that isn't rectangular


The Black Rabbit said...

"with all the mythical flim-flam about it being most pleasing to the eye, and all that tommyrot."

You haven't an artistic cell in your body have you pal?


Maybe a few piss artistic cells...

electrichalibut said...

Don't be talking to me about art; I am the art master. I've got that Athena poster of the woman scratching her arse on a tennis court and everything.