CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

14 Finer Points of the U.S. Flag Code

Getty Images
Getty Images

Tom Pennington/

The National Flag Code was adopted on June 14, 1923, by the National Flag Conference. The representatives from the U.S. Army and Navy and more than 60 other organizations in attendance were charged with examining the rules and procedures of flag display—developed separately by the Army and Navy—and deciding which of those would come together to form a common flag code for everyone. The code (with some edits since its original 1923 version) was adopted as law in 1942.

You know a thing or two about the flag code: no burning, no wearing the flag (except the crucial flag lapel pins, of course – “…the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart”), and no using the flag for advertising. But have you ever actually read the code in its entirety?  Here are some quotes, rules and procedures from the flag code that you might not be familiar with.

1. Sorry, south-paws. During the playing of the National Anthem, you must remove your hat using your right hand.

2. You may be aware that the American flag is only supposed to be displayed from sunrise to sunset, but the code-writers left room for some interpretation: "when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.” When is flying a flag not patriotic in effect?

3. “How ought the flag to be hoisted?” you ask. Well, the “Manner of hoisting” section of the code clearly explains: “The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.”

4. In the “Particular days of display” section, the code indicates that the flag should be displayed on “all days” but “especially” on particular holidays, including Independence Day, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, among others. All days are equal, but some are more equal than others.

5.The flag should not be draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or of a railroad train or a boat.

6. When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

7. When you fly a flag at half-staff, you have to first hoist the flag to the peak before lowering it to half-staff. Then, when you lower it for the day, you have to first raise it to its peak again.

8. The flag is to be flown at half-staff for 30 days after the death of the president or former president of the United States. It is to be flown at a half-staff for ten days after the death of a vice president (as well as the secretary of state, speaker of the house, and a chief justice or former chief justice of the Supreme Court) but it is only flown at half-staff from the day of death until the day of interment for former vice presidents.

9. Don’t even think about festooning Old Glory.

10. And if you’re thinking of using the flag as a receptacle, take note: “The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.”

11. “It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Oops?

12. Per the code, the flag is to be considered a living thing.

13. “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

14. And, interestingly, “On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.”

Happy Fourth of July!

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
iStock
iStock

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
TAKWest, Youtube
arrow
entertainment
Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios