Alright, I’m officially confused.
Back when I was in Boy Scouts, we were told that to fly the flag at “half staff” meant to fly it one flag’s height from the top of the flagpole. This seemed very peculiar, since the flag was just one flag height below the top, and this was far from half the staff in height. There were pictures that showed the flag that distance dowbn from the top, with a ghostly dotted-outline flag up at the top above it. This site seems to show such a “half staff” flag:
But nowadays I notice that “half staff” seems to literally nmean at half the height of the flagstaff, and that even in DC this is the case. Most webnsites use this definition, including Wikipedia.
When did this change? I assumed that all the flags I saw literally at half the staff were the work of people who only knew of the position from the name, and who naively assumed that it meant half the staff. But the folks in Washington are sticklers for accuracy and consistency in ceremonial display, and I can’t imagine them getting it wrong.
So I can only assume that somewhere along the line it changed, and I never got the memo. Does anyone know about this?
(Then there’s the argument about “half staff” vs. “half mast”. The former is judged more correct, although apparently the latter is an older term. I’ve heard both used. Moreover I’ve heard them both used for both the “one flag from the top” position and the literal half-flagpole-height position.)