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Brad Fitzpatrick

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Flag specs [Sep. 12th, 2005|10:33 pm]
Brad Fitzpatrick

Reading the US flag specs, I can't see any reason why the red strips can't be the inside ones and the white being the outside ones.

It only says: "The flag of the United States shall have thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white, and a union consisting of white stars on a field of blue."

Then goes on to give proportions of everything.

I suppose the key may be the word "alternate". Some dictionaries define it with some sense of order to its operands. The Collaborative International Dictionary of English says "To perform by turns, or in succession". WordNet says "occurring by turns; first one and then the other;".

Wooo, tangent.

[User Picture]From: popcultureicon
2005-09-13 05:37 am (UTC)
because the red color could bleed (visually, not like the flag is not colorfast) through the white creating tiny stipes of pink?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2005-09-13 05:40 am (UTC)
I don't argue that red on the outside doesn't look better. I'm just saying it's not specified, and that's pretty ridiculous given an otherwise anal document.

I suppose the picture should be considered normative, given that it's needed to decipher the meanings of dimensions E, F, G, and H, but it feels odd in a legal-ish document.
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[User Picture]From: disheveledblond
2005-09-13 05:38 am (UTC)

it's not white and red stripes

so, if it does say RED first, then shouldn't that mean they start with it either at the top, or bottom, or however?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2005-09-13 05:41 am (UTC)

Re: it's not white and red stripes

That's why I looked at dictionaries for the definition of "alternate".
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[User Picture]From: disheveledblond
2005-09-13 06:04 am (UTC)

Re: it's not white and red stripes

forget the dictionaries, brad! only betsy ross knows for sure!!! ;P
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[User Picture]From: avatraxiom
2005-09-13 06:33 am (UTC)
The Webster's Third New International Dictionary (probably the most authoritative dictionary of the English language, along with the O.E.D.) has two definitions that would likely apply for alternate, in this case:

2b) Arranged one above or alongside the other (alternate layers of brick and stone)
3) Composed of members that succeed by turns (recurring figures in an alternate pattern)

So, in other words, the word "alternate" doesn't really specify which one should come first, unless it's inherent in a particular definition of the word "and," or unless the original Webster's (from the early 1800's, which you can get a reprint of) defines "alternate" differently.

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[User Picture]From: nothings
2005-09-13 09:28 am (UTC)
It doesn't say where the blue field goes, either; it's explicit about the stars being as according to the diagram at the bottom, and ditto the dimensions of everything; so I guess you have to argue that the diagram is giving more than just proportions. I.e., to force the blue field to the right place, it's implied by the dimensions of the various stripes, which are not all the same length; and in so specifying the stripe lengths, it's specifying certain red ones as certain lengths, and certain white ones as certain lengths. But definitely not as clearly written as it should be.
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[User Picture]From: nothings
2005-09-13 09:33 am (UTC)
According to this, the stripes are only specified for "the Executive Department and the Military", according to some unnamed act from 1916: http://www.fotw.net/flags/us-ststr.html#stripes
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[User Picture]From: grumpy_sysadmin
2005-09-13 01:20 pm (UTC)

Usage of "alternate" is an issue of linguistic style.

Though it's not the canonical case, this is an example of parallelism.

Usually that's, taking an example I used at work recently, "We need ports open for and (hostA and hostB)..." In this example, it's clear that .17 is hostA and .23 is hostB. (That this is self-evident is what makes Strunk label the word "respectively" entirely irrelevant.) Red is listed first, so it comes first.

Starting at the top (or left, for the blue field) is a question of language structure: western languages go from top-left to bottom-right, and this dictates imagery as much as written word (think billboards).
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[User Picture]From: nick
2005-09-13 03:00 pm (UTC)
I guess the more important question is why are we reading flag specs?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2005-09-13 04:12 pm (UTC)
I was reading the stupid Internet and landed there on accident.
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[User Picture]From: ydna
2005-09-13 08:23 pm (UTC)
Best line ever. I'll remember that one the next time I find myself in teh defendant's seat in court.
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