Carrying the Flag


Reading time ( words)

The September 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine concludes our month-long look at industry standards. We wrap up by "waving the standard" in celebration. Of course, that phrase immediately piques the interest of us wordsmiths. Why, after all, do English speakers use "standard" as a synonym for a flag?

The etymology of the word "standard" starts to answer that question. It is widely recognized and cited by scholars that by the mid-twelfth century, standard referred to "a flag or other conspicuous object to serve as a rallying point for a military force." Numerous etymologists suggest that the Franks (a Germanic tribe from the Rhine river regions) introduced the word "standhard," which meant to stand fast or firm. The "standhard" was a flag attached to a pole or spear, standing upright in the ground.

Tracing the history of flags and standards leads us to this quote from Encyclopedia Britannica: "In Europe, the first 'national' flags were adopted in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance… Toward the end of the Middle Ages, flags had become accepted symbols of countries, kings, organizations, cities, and guilds." The flag's dimensions became significant as well. Britannica continues, "Flags were subdivided according to their shape and purpose into standards, banners, guidons, pennons, and streamers. Of the main types, the standard was the largest, and from its size, was intended to be stationary. It marked the position of an important individual before a battle, during a siege, throughout a ceremony, or at a tournament. For the monarch, it marked the palace, castle, saluting base, tent, or ship where he or she was actually present."

The flag standard became the symbol of the "rule of law" and a rallying point for those who supported that particular institution. It's no small wonder, then, that the term has expanded to include other systems that function as law by mutual agreement. The process of reaching that agreement can be a long, arduous road to travel. In this issue, we look at standards both as processes and rallying points. Follow the standards, and your results will be both better and compatible with the rest of the industry.

To read the full article, which appeared in the September 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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