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Flag mnemonics

Last modified: 1999-10-08 by rob raeside
Keywords: mnemonic |
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I suppose you could use "God is Number One!" to help differentiate Hungary, old Iran, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Mali, and Guinea thus:

I used to remember the flags of Hungary and Iran by recalling that Hungary was Communist and therefore the Red stripe was on top, and that Iran was Islamic and therefore the Green stripe was on top (God is Number One!). Now Communism is kaput (for the most part) and Iran has additional symbolism on their flag.

Similarly, Mali and Guinea are the same except for the order of the vertical stripes. In the early 1960's Islamic influence caused the "Kanaga" or human figure to be removed from the flag of Mali. Mali's flag is Green/Yellow/Red (God is Number One!) whereas Guinea is Red/Yellow/Green (if Guinea is an Islamic state then my theory is kaput.)

Since there is a greater probability of finding Islamic populations in Ethiopia than in Bolivia, the superiority of the green stripe and "God is Number One!" works here as well. However, now that Ethiopia has added the blue disk with central star to their flag, it is further distinguished from the Bolivian tri-bar.

The Netherlands has always had the saying "oranje boven" meaning "orange on top." It's not too hard to remember that the orange is now red. A horizontally striped flag of Blue/White/Red is, of course, Yugoslavia. (BTW why do some manufacturers insist on showing the red star with yellow fimbriation in the center of the Yugoslav flag?)

Speaking of orange, the flag of Ireland (the "Emerald Isle") has the Green stripe first and the orange stripe last. Cote d'Ivorie is the reverse. If Cote d'Ivorie is Islamic, then "God is Number One!" fits here, too.

The Boy Scouts in the UK are taught, so I'm told, "Broad White on Top" to help them assure that the Union Flag has the St. Andrew's cross uppermost and not the so-called St. Patrick's cross.

"Blue sky over golden grain" describes Ukraine.

There's no "mnemonic" involved, but I distinguish between Costa Rica and Thailand by remembering the Thai flag of 1917 replaced the white elephant on the red field with two narrow white stripes. To honor the WW I allies, the central stripe was soon changed to blue so that Thailand would also have a R/W/B flag.

I believe the Estonian colors are often described by a mnemonic or some other description of the blue sky and white snow, but I forget what the black stripe refers to.

Nick Artimovich 24 Jun 1996

A couple of others to add to Nick's list: I remember which scandinavian flag is Iceland's and which is Norway's by remembering that Iceland is an island surrounded by the blue of the sea.

Also, since "red, white and blue" trips off the tongue (certainly for someone of British descent) more readily than "blue, white and red", I use this to remember (top to bottom) the stripes of both the Netherlands and South Africa (which is basically the Dutch flag with the ANC colours over it). Strangely, remembering the South African flag helps me remember the order of colours on the Jamaican flag, too. Similarly, the Czech flag and the Polish flag remind me of each other. So often it's a case of remembering that one flag is similar to (or opposite to) another flag, rather than some code for memory - although technically, this is also a mnemonic.

Then there are also flags which are based on history or legend (e.g., Austria), or on some feature of a country (e.g., one of my favourites: Nauru), and can be remembered by recalling the reason for the flag's pattern.

Also, for those whose English grammar is lacking, remember that olympic records in events like the long jump are set by jumping bigger distances. "By Bigger"? Yes! B-Y-B-G-R, the colours of the five olympic rings.

James Dignan 25 Jun 1996

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