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  #1  
Old 09-20-2001, 03:26 AM
DarrenS DarrenS is offline
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I'm amazed this hasn't been asked - I tried a search but the nearest I could find was this thread, which just explains why so many of the Slavic flags have those colors.

How about the US Flag, the British one, the French one, the Dutch one... ?

I realize the colors are often symbolic (red for blood of the Revolution etc.) but why does that combination occur so frequently? Or am I just imagining it and it doesn't occur any more frequently than other combinations?

(related: why certain colors never seem to appear, e.g. pink?)
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  #2  
Old 09-20-2001, 04:10 AM
Schnitte Schnitte is offline
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I can only say why the French flag is blue-white-red; why so many other nations carry those colours I do not know; maybe they didn't, and every flag has its own history, and it's coincidence why they have those colours in common.

Red and blue are the colours of the city of Paris, and white was the colour of the Bourbon royal dynasty ruling France before the Revolution. Therefore the French national colour was white until 1789, when King Louis XVI, as a symbol for his loyalty towards the people of France in general and Paris in particular, added the Paris colours to his white outfit, creating the well-known revolutionary tricolore cockade.

The Union Jack history is the story of combining three single flags (England, Scotland, Ireland) into one, so I don't think there is any connection between the British flag and the French Revolution (I'm pretty sure usage of the Union Jack antedates the Revolution).

The US flag derived AFAIK from the flag of the British East India Company (the English red cross in the canton and horizontal red stripes on the rest of the flag, later on the English flag was replaced by the Union Jack. This in the beginning of the American Revlution also was in use as the revolutionary flag).
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  #3  
Old 09-20-2001, 04:50 AM
Andy Andy is offline
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Perhaps it's something to do with the historic availability of dyes giving strong colours....WAG!

What I always wondered was why so many flags consist of 3 vertical stripes.
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  #4  
Old 09-20-2001, 05:00 AM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is offline
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I think I remember reading something in a book about what symbolism each part of the flag had(part meaning color, cross, star, stripe, emblem, etc.).

From what I remember, red means courage or bravery, and it may represent blood spilled defending the country.

White was for purity. I canīt remember what was blue for, maybe peace? But I don't think so.
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  #5  
Old 09-20-2001, 05:01 AM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is offline
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Just thought about it...

Now I remembered something about the color blue: It may mean the sky, or the sea.
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  #6  
Old 09-20-2001, 06:01 AM
Andy Andy is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Schnitte
....later on the English flag was replaced by the Union Jack.
The English flag is the Cross of Saint George.
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  #7  
Old 09-20-2001, 06:07 AM
Ariadne Ariadne is offline
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Remember that Cecil column where he talked about the number of words for colors in a language. All languages have black and white, and then red is the third color, if they have more than two words for colors. Then yellow/green, then blue. I'm going to go look for the column, but I bet that's part of the reason.
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  #8  
Old 09-20-2001, 06:09 AM
Ariadne Ariadne is offline
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That took much less time than I thought it would. Here's the column
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_168b.html
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  #9  
Old 09-20-2001, 06:48 AM
flodnak flodnak is offline
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Flags were invented by cultures that already had a rich color vocabulary, so that doesn't seem to be connected to the reason for certain colors being more popular than others.

On the other hand, red and blue are two of the easiest colors to acheive with natural dyes. You can make them vivid and they don't fade as quickly as most other natural colors. They make a striking, pleasing combination of colors, and remain distinct at a distance. I suspect these practical reasons explain much of their popularity.
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  #10  
Old 09-20-2001, 07:01 AM
gruven gruven is offline
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I was under the impression that alot of the flags were derived from the french flag after the french revolution. IAMA french revolution expert, but didn't their success give other countries the confidence to do the same?
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  #11  
Old 09-20-2001, 07:27 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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>> I was under the impression that alot of the flags were derived from the french flag after the french revolution. IAMA french revolution expert, but didn't their success give other countries the confidence to do the same?

Sort of the other way around. The British flag was the first. The USA borrowed the colors from them and then the French borrowed from the US.
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  #12  
Old 09-20-2001, 08:18 AM
APB APB is offline
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The fundamental reason is surely to do with the close connection with heraldry, which also uses a restricted number of basic colours. In some early cases, such as the St. George's flag of England, the heraldic connection is obvious, but even for more recent examples, such as Stars and Strips or the French tricolour, notions of good heraldic design were a discernible influence. Most national flags still have simple designs using heraldic colours. The red-white-and-blue combination may be the most popular, but that is partly because, with only a restricted range of colours, the number of simple, appealing combinations is limited. The sort of practical explanations given above by flodnak also applied to heraldry.
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  #13  
Old 09-20-2001, 08:32 AM
berdollos berdollos is offline
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It could have a different meaning

for different countries.
In the US flag it is as if the stars are actually stars in a blue sky.
Did you note that blue in the American flag is a different shade than the French royal blueprobably has a different connotation as well.
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  #14  
Old 09-20-2001, 08:36 AM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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The Russian flag is white blue and red. Red and white are very symbolic to the Russian people-the word for red also means beautiful.
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  #15  
Old 09-20-2001, 08:54 AM
gruven gruven is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by sailor
>> I was under the impression that alot of the flags were derived from the french flag after the french revolution. IAMA french revolution expert, but didn't their success give other countries the confidence to do the same?

Sort of the other way around. The British flag was the first. The USA borrowed the colors from them and then the French borrowed from the US.
http://atlasgeo.span.ch/fotw/flags/fr.html#ori
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  #16  
Old 09-20-2001, 08:56 AM
gruven gruven is offline
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That web page above explains it all. Apparently the colors don't mean much of anything...heh.

And I admit I was bass ackwards on the french revolution thingy. My bad.
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  #17  
Old 09-20-2001, 10:15 AM
Mr. Duality Mr. Duality is offline
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APB's answer gets toward the root of it.

To quote APB, "The red-white-and-blue combination may be the most popular, but that is partly because, with only a restricted range of colours, the number of simple, appealing combinations is limited."

To go further in the same direction, I believe red and and blue are the colors most frequently listed as peoples' favorites. White is the logical choice to set off red and blue.
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  #18  
Old 09-20-2001, 12:40 PM
DarrenS DarrenS is offline
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Thanks for the answers everyone. This board is one of the last refuges for the intelligent on the Internet.

The only reasoning I can think of that would explain why such dissimilar, a priori unrelated countries would all "happen" to choose those three colors seems to be the one first expressed by APB - the connection with heraldry.

I guess red and blue are very striking colors, and white just seems a natural third. (Although - why not the primary colors - red, green and blue? Actually isn't there a different set of primary colors for pigment than for light?)
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  #19  
Old 09-20-2001, 01:33 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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The US flag intentionally took the colors of the British flag. Later Lafayette, who had fought for US independence, used the same colors when designing the French flag. While there are explanations of what the colors stand for, they are made up a posteriori. I have found this to be the case with *many* flags and symbols where people try to find symbolism after the emblem is already in use. The US flag is an exception in that the symbolism of the states in the stars and stripes and of British heritage in the colors, was intended.
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  #20  
Old 09-20-2001, 01:53 PM
Danimal Danimal is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by DarrenS
Or am I just imagining it and it doesn't occur any more frequently than other combinations?
You're not imagining it, but I'm as baffled as you. By my count, the red white and blue are flown by 26 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, France, Iceland, North Korea, Laos, Liberia, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Russia, Samoa, Slovakia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and Yugoslavia. Make that 27 if we count Taiwan as a sovereign state, which it is for most practical purposes. (I'm not counting those countries that have red, white and blue mixed in with one or more other colors).

The next most common color combos are red and white, flown by 16 countries. Then comes green, red and white, flown by 11 countries.

It's not that there aren't enough combinations; I count 61 different color combinations currently being flown by about 193 sovereign states. Why red, white and blue account for about 14% of those flags, I can't tell you.
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  #21  
Old 09-20-2001, 02:29 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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Some of the countries with red/white/blue flags have inherited the colors from the British flag, directly or indirectly (Liberia). I am curious about Thailand as they have an Anglophile system of government. I am also curious about the origin of the Cuban flag and I wonder if it may be based on the US flag.

Arab countries seem to have a liking for Green / black / white and red, in that order. There's probably some reason behind it.
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  #22  
Old 09-20-2001, 02:33 PM
absimia absimia is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by DarrenS
Actually isn't there a different set of primary colors for pigment than for light?
Yep. The three primary colors for pigment (subtractive color system) is, as you noted Red, Blue, and Yellow. Mix them all together and you get Black.

The three primary colors for light (additive color system) are, Red, Green, and Blue. Mix them all together and you get White.
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  #23  
Old 09-20-2001, 02:59 PM
Threadkiller Threadkiller is offline
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Behold the Master!

Quote:
Originally posted by DarrenS
[...]
Although - why not the primary colors - red, green and blue? Actually isn't there a different set of primary colors for pigment than for light?
Cecil Sez...If blue, red, and yellow are primary colors, why do color TVs use blue, red, and green?
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  #24  
Old 09-20-2001, 03:01 PM
Earthling Earthling is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by sailor
I am also curious about the origin of the Cuban flag and I wonder if it may be based on the US flag.

Arab countries seem to have a liking for Green / black / white and red, in that order. There's probably some reason behind it.
According to Flags of the World,
Quote:
The white star [of the Cuban flag] represented a new state to be added to the USA. The red, white, and blue also referred deliberately to the Stars and Stripes
It's also interesting to note that the Cuban flag is almost identical to the Puerto Rican flag, but with the blue/red reversed and the Cuban flag being longer.

According to this,
Quote:
In Islam green is the colour of spiritual and material well-being. It is also the colour for wisdom and the prophets.
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  #25  
Old 09-20-2001, 03:21 PM
Omniscient Omniscient is offline
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While this has been mentioned in a roundabout way, I'll sum it up in my way.

It likely has alot to do with the fact that the UK had such a successful history of colonialsim and empirialism. Alot of formative countries were heavily influenced by the colors of the UK.
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  #26  
Old 09-20-2001, 03:47 PM
Danimal Danimal is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Omniscient
While this has been mentioned in a roundabout way, I'll sum it up in my way.

It likely has alot to do with the fact that the UK had such a successful history of colonialsim and empirialism. Alot of formative countries were heavily influenced by the colors of the UK.
That may have something to do with it; I count 6 out 27 countries flying the red white and blue that were British or ex-British colonies (USA, Myanmar, Australia, New Zealand, Panama, and the UK itself). Still, most ex-British colonies did not pick British colors. Jamaica and Ghana both fly black, gold, green and red; the magnificent Kenyan flag is black, green, red and white; Barbados flies black, blue and gold; India flies blue, gold, green and white; and the Bahamas fly black, gold, and aquamarine, I kid you not.

The colors of the Union Jack itself come from the red Cross of St. George, patron saint of England, being combined with the white, X-shaped cross on a blue field of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, and then further combined with the red, X-shaped cross of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. How these saints came to be associated with these particular crosses and colors, I don't know.
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  #27  
Old 09-21-2001, 02:25 PM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Philistine
It's also interesting to note that the Cuban flag is almost identical to the Puerto Rican flag, but with the blue/red reversed and the Cuban flag being longer.
You mean the Puerto Rican flag is almost identical to the Cuban flag. The Puerto Rican flag was from 1895, more or less, and the Cuban flag was first.

Yea, the colors of the Cuban and Puerto Rican flag are reversed. The blue in the Puerto Rican flag represents the sky, and the star alone certainly does not represent another state of the USA.

Sites about the Puerto Rican (and Cuban) flag:

Welcome to Puerto Rico Note that this information is the one of the official government after it adopted the flag in 1952.

El Boricua The site of the name is in Spanish, but the information is in English

Puerto Rican flag What the writer(s?) says of identifying people by the hue of blue they have on their flag is mostly true.

Those are a few I found.
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  #28  
Old 09-22-2001, 04:01 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by DarrenS
(related: why certain colors never seem to appear, e.g. pink?)
You've obviously not come across the unofficial, pre-Confederation flag of Newfoundland, the famous green-white-pink tricolour.
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