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283835.  Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:03 pm Reply with quote

John's idea: give them these nautical signal flags and invite them to suggest/explain what they're code for:

Z: I need a tug

T: Keep clear of me; I'm engaged in pair trawling

K2: I wish to communicate with you by loud-hailer

J: I am on fire tonight!

284044.  Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:09 pm Reply with quote

I wonder why you would need a flag to indicate that your boat was on fire?

284162.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:53 am Reply with quote

I wonder if there's a gen ig question asking people to draw the Blue Peter flag, and see how many people reproduce a stylised ship as designed by Tony Hart.

As any fule kno', the Blue Peter looks like this:

And means "hurry up and get on board, we're about to leave!"

284165.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:58 am Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
I wonder why you would need a flag to indicate that your boat was on fire?

Indeed so. According to, the "J" flag is used to communicate the message "I am going to send a message by semaphore."

Ah, after a bit more checking, this site suggests that some flags have multiple meanings. Could cause problems, I'd've thought. Especially the flag that looks like a Scottish Saltire (letter M) which can mean either "I am stopped" or "I have a doctor on board". Bit of a difference.

284181.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 5:24 am Reply with quote

some flags have multiple meanings.

But ... but ... that destroys the whole thing, surely? That's the most quinteresting thing I've ever heard about flags! Are there any other codes made up of units which have multiple meanings? Is it possible to signal in Morse "We are discovered, flee" and "All well, proceed as planned" simultaneously?

284299.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:08 am Reply with quote

According to context the Blue Peter can have either the meaning you refer to, Mat, or:
My nets have come fast upon an obstruction.

The F flag:

I am disabled; communicate with me.

which is quite poignant, but I didn't include it as it's hard to see how it could be handled tastefully.

284347.  Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:39 am Reply with quote

I'm still a little confused by the R flag which, according to a couple of sites I've found, means:

"The way is off my ship. You may feel your way past me."


294006.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:06 am Reply with quote

When does the Union Flag fly over Buckingham Palace?

I haven't properly looked into this yet, but I suspect there might be a Generally Ignorant answer of “When the Queen is in residence.”

Would any of you have given that answer?

294030.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:36 am Reply with quote

I wouldn't have done. Traditionally, the Union Flag didn't fly at Buckingham Palace at all did it - and was only introduced there when Diana died, seemingly because The Sun demanded it.

Since then, I think the practice is that the Royal Standard flies when HM is present, and the Union Flag when she isn't. The Royal Standard can never be half-masted - that would imply that the monarchy had ceased to exist.

294478.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:46 am Reply with quote

I would've fallen for your forfeit, Mat. Though if what Suze says is true, perhaps it's due to an old pub quiz technique of answering the question that you think the quiz-master is intending to ask, rather than the one he actually is asking.

294577.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:17 am Reply with quote

I wouldn't have stumbled on this one but that might be due to the fact that part of a job I had more than 30 years ago was hoisting the right flag when the Queen entered the building (as I have already mentioned to Mat). So perhaps I'm not your average punter on this particular topic.

294583.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:19 am Reply with quote

That’s how you ended up here, is it, Flash? Kept getting your flags mixed up, and signalling “I need a tug” to Her Madge?

Frederick The Monk
294635.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:52 am Reply with quote

I'm afraid I knew that one too. I remember being very bemused around the Diana death thing that people furiously demanded the Standard to fly at half mast without understanding that it is the flag of the monarchy and as the monarchy can't die it can't be flown at half mast - unless we had a revolution of course.

Frederick The Monk
294642.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:57 am Reply with quote

Here's a Gen Ig on flags - The solid yellow flag was, as you know, previously used to indicate quarantine before it was made the flag for Q. It is worth noting that display of the yellow Q flag today means that the ship does not have disease aboard; it signifies "I request free pratique," which means I ask that the authorities in the port give me a clean bill of health.

Frederick The Monk
294643.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:59 am Reply with quote

Rather appropriately the flag R for Romeo also means 'You may feel your way past me'.


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