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Dictionary of Vexillology: O (Obverse - Owner Absent Flag)

Last modified: 2008-01-05 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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The face, or more important side, of a flag; and in the Western tradition always depicted with the hoist to the observer’s left - the dexter in heraldry.

Please note however, that in Arabic tradition the flag is generally depicted with the hoist to the observer’s right – the sinister in heraldry (see also ‘sinister’; ‘dexter’, ‘reverse’ and ‘sinister hoist’).

See ‘commemorative flag’.
1) Generically see ‘Scandinavian Cross’.
2) Specifically, a cross of the Scandinavian-type that is used on a flag which is not from, or has no connection with that region, or whose vertical arm is centred but whose horizontal arm is closer to the top or bottom of the flag.

Hong Kong Christians Volyinia, Ukraine Thunstetten, Switzerland
From left: Hong Kong Christians (fotw); Volyinia,, Ukraine (fotw); Thunstetten, Switzerland (fotw)

In US usage and some others, those flags that are flown by the past and present officers of a club, especially of a yacht or boating club – yacht officers flags (but see also ‘broad pennant 2)’).

[yacht commodore] [yacht vice commodore] [yacht rear commodore] [acht past commodore]
From left: Yacht Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Vice Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Rear Commodore, US (fotw); Yacht Past Commodore, US (fotw)

1) Generally a poetic nickname for the US national flag – the Stars and Stripes (see also ‘Betsy Ross flag’, ‘continental colours’, ‘Franklin flag’, ‘quincunx’, ‘star-spangled banner’ and ‘stars and stripes’).
2) Specifically referring to a US national flag bearing 34 stars and a small white anchor, reputedly belonging to a Captain William Driver.

old glory
Captain Driver’s Flag (fotw)

See 'banderole 2)'.
See ‘name pennant’.

A term used when the relative dimensions of a series of stripes progressively widen between the hoist and the fly in order to appear even when the flag is flying, or where a charge is set slightly towards the hoist so that it appears to be centred under the same circumstances – two examples would be the national flag of France for use at sea, and the federal service flag of Germany (see also ‘charge 1)’, ‘hoist’, ‘fly’, ‘proportions 2)’ and ‘stripe’).

France German federal service flag
National Ensign of France (fotw); Federal Service Flag of Germany (fotw)

A heraldic term for the metal gold, generally (but not invariably) shown as yellow in flags, or sometimes as gold leaf or metallic paint, or in an embroidered design, as gold thread (see also ‘Appendix III’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

A heraldic term used to describe a simple charge on a shield or banner of arms. The honourable (or main) ordinaries are said to be the chief, cross, pale, saltire, fess, pile, chevron, quarter and bend, and whilst these terms are briefly described separately herein, it is suggested that a suitable glossary or dictionary of heraldry be consulted for full or further details.

See ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’.

1) Generically, the flag of a non-profit making organization of national rather than international significance, or of the national/district branch of an international entity, for example the UK National Trust or the Boy Scouts of America (see also ‘international flag 1)’).
2) Specifically, in US army usage – see ‘parade flag’ (also ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2’).

[National Trust, UK] [Boy Scouts of America]
From left: The National Trust, UK (Bartram); The Boy Scouts of America, US (fotw)

The gonfanon of St Denis, the war flag of medieval France and reputedly adapted from that of Charlemagne. The exact design is uncertain and has been variously described; however, it was almost certainly of red silk, possibly triple-tailed and charged with a number of gold disks surrounded by red roses outlined in blue – the auriflamma (see also ‘gonfanon’).

[Oriflamme interpretation]
One interpretation of the Oriflamme (CS)

See ‘type flag’.

1) (Adj) Generically a term meaning rectangular or pertaining to or involving right angles.
2) (Adj) In vexillology a term which may be used when the arms of a saltire – or objects placed per saltire - are set at right angles to each other (particularly when the flag upon which it – or they - appear is rectangular rather than square), and when the fork in the fly of a swallowtail forms a right angle at the crutch (see also ‘crutch’, ‘per saltire’, ‘saltire’ and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).

[orthoganal flag example]
House Flag of the British India Steam Navigation Co, UK (CS)

In German speaking, Central European and some other usage, the term which covers a long vertically orientated (often but by no means invariably) commercial flag that is fixed both along its hoist to the flagpole and along the top edge to a horizontal arm - but see also ‘framed flag 1)’ (also ‘banner 2)’, ‘hanging flag’ and ‘vertically hoisted flag’).

Please note that this type of flag is also a framed flag, that the term used here is a direct translation of the German auslegerflagge, and should not be confused with a flag hung from an outrigger pole.

The term for a flagpole that projects from the side of a building at an upward angle, usually equipped with a halyard but is sometimes removable and fitted with clips to attach the flag directly (see also ‘halyard’ and ‘tangle rod’).

1) On flags, a term used when a charge (generally but not exclusively reaching the edges of the flag) is placed over another design, as in for example, the bend on the Artigas flag of Uruguay (see also ‘charge’).
2) In heraldry, the term can be used when a charge is placed over other charges, or over a parti-coloured field, or when an escutcheon is placed over four or more quarters (see also ‘escutcheon’, ‘inescutcheon’ and ‘quarter’).

overall examples
From left: The Artigas Flag, Uruguay (fotw); Shield (CS)

Please note – not to be confused with dressing overall (see ‘dress ship’).

In US usage the practice, almost certainly obsolete, of flying a plain blue flag from the starboard yardarm (or spreader) of a pleasure vessel when the owner is absent – an absence pennant (see also ‘dinner flag’, ‘guest on board flag’, ‘meal pennant’ and ‘yardarm’).

owner absent
Owner Absent Flag, US (fotw)

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