Posted by: Jack Henry | June 1, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Vexing Vexillologists

Hello, folks!

I attended a class a few weeks ago that was about flags. It was specifically about the LGBTQ+ flag and its history, but I learned so many interesting things, including some new words, and I’d love to share them with you. The following information is from the class and from Wikipedia:

Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism, and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum (which refers to a kind of square flag which was carried by Roman cavalry) and the Greek suffix -logia ("study"). The first known usage of the word vexillology was in 1959.

A person who studies flags is a vexillologist, one who designs flags is a vexillographer, and the art of flag-designing is called vexillography. One who is a hobbyist or general admirer of flags is a vexillophile.

Now, you know me, I couldn’t stop there. I like doing research and going where these new words take me. I thought I’d look up the American flag, the Swedish flag, the Greek flag…and then I realized that I don’t get paid to be a vexillologist, so I settled on the United States, Mexico, and the LGBTQ+ flag (in honor of PRIDE month, and upcoming events).

Let’s start with the U.S. flag. Many of us know that the stars represent the 50 states, and the stripes represent the original 13 colonies. But why red, white, and blue? An interesting choice since the British flag we were escaping from is also red, white, and blue. According to, “red symbolizes hardiness and valor; white symbolizes purity and innocence; blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.”

The Bandera de México (Mexican flag) is green, white, and red, with the national coat of arms in the middle. The flag has changed a lot over the years, including the meanings of the colors, but they are currently said to be green for hope, white for purity, and red for the blood shed fighting for Mexico’s independence. There are some other interpretations out there too. As for the design in the middle, here is a description from Wikipedia:

The central emblem is the Mexican coat of arms, based on the Aztec symbol for Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the center of the Aztec empire. It recalls the legend of an eagle sitting on a prickly pear cactus while devouring a serpent that signaled to the Aztecs where to found their city, Tenochtitlan. A ribbon in the national colors is at the bottom of the coat of arms…the cactus is situated on a rock that rises above a lake.

And before I continue, what’s up with white meaning “purity” in our countries? Does it mean we are founded on the backs of virgins? Does it mean our ancestors used Ivory (nearly 100%) pure soap? It definitely seems like an odd way to describe a country.

And for June, PRIDE month, a little about the LGBTQ+ flags.

Original design by Gilbert Baker, including pink (sex) and light blue (magic).

One of the current designs, which has been “traditional” for years. The six colors (as in Gilbert Baker’s flag) represent:

  • Red = life
  • Orange = healing
  • Yellow = sunlight
  • Green = nature
  • Indigo = serenity
  • Violet = spirit

A suggested redesign combining many of the different PRIDE flags, including black and brown for people of color and those lost to AIDS; and pink, blue, and white for transgender folks.

There are many other flags and combinations if you’re interested, including the straight ally flag! Visit here for more information on PRIDE flags and what they mean.

I hope to see a lot of new vexillophiles out there!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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