What Is A “Vexillologist”?

Thanks to the eagle eyes of a Texan voter, the absentee ballot this election season in Atascosa County will not feature the flag of Chile. You can see the source of confusion below, but first, how did the Chilean flag end up on a Texan ballot?

As you will see,  the flags of the Latin American country and the U.S. state are remarkably similar. Both flags have a white stripe on top and a red stripe on the bottom. They also both have a single star in the middle of a blue field. A field is the background of a flag or the color behind the symbol.

(Incidentally, does the name Chile have anything to do with chile peppers? Here’s the answer.)

But here’s the difference. The Texas flag has blue all along the left side, while on the Chilean flag, the blue is only in the top left corner.

This is for certain: a vexillologist, a person who studies flags, would never have made that kind of mistake. (A vexillographer is someone who designs flags.) “Vexillology” comes from the Latin vexillum, which means “flag.”

Here are a few terms that a vexillologist would use to describe the situation:

• The fimbriation is a narrow border, often in white or gold, on a flag that separates two other colors.

• A canton is any quarter of a flag. For example, a canton is the field of stars in the U.S. flag.

• A figure or symbol that appears in the field of a flag is a charge.

Texas and Chile aren’t the only two places that share similar flags. Examine the flags of Iraq and Yemen. The flags of the U.S. and Liberia and the flags of Niger and India are also nearly flag doppelgangers.

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