Monday, 4 June 2012

Bunting


File:Grand Union Flag.svgThe following is highly speculative, but will satisfy the curiosity of anyone who's been wandering around Britain lately and wondering what bunting is, and whether there's a verb to bunt.

Bunting was originally just the material from which flags could be made. It seems to have come from the old verb to bunt meaning to sift, because that was what was done to the material when bunting was made (or possibly what was done with it afterwards). That in turn may come from the Latin bonitare, which meant to make good.

So bunting, etymologically, makes things good.

There is also an old naval phrase - bunting-tosser - for a ship's signalman who put out the flags.

And as an odd bit of historical trivia, that's the first American flag in the upper right of this post. Also, have a look at the flags in the background of this painting of the Declaration of Independence.



10 comments:

  1. I was looking for videos of klipspringers last night (long story) and I found two that were described as klipspringers bunting - which apparently means nudging and headbutting. I've never heard the verb anywhere else, so I'm thinking it might be a South African thing.

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  2. EndlessWaves5 June 2012 02:02

    It's an odd choice of flag, to take the East India Company flag and squash it a bit.

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  3. 'Bunting-tosser' for signalman, reminiscent of 'turd-walloper' for gravedigger.

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  4. The group of European/Palearctic birds, Buntings - i.e Reed, Ortolan, Cretzshmars, Cinerous, to name but a few are, generally speaking, very brightly coloured (particularly the males) i was rather hoping (as a birder) that this would have been the etymological origins.

    Laurie -

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  5. When one eats an ortolan, one covers one's face with a cloth (to hide the shame). Is this linked to the name of th group of birds and hence a link between the birds and flags?

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  6. When one eats an ortolan, one covers one's face with a cloth (to hide the shame). Is this linked to the name of th group of birds and hence a link between the birds and flags?

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  7. Like Carrie, I have heard the word bunting (verb: to bunt) used in the context of when a cat rubs it's face against you. Please don't tell me this isn't true, because there really needs to be a word for that and bunting feels like exactly the right word!

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  8. The sifting definition makes sense, coarse fabrics are frequently used like sieves, muslin to make a pounce,scrim to filter contaminated size.Bunting, nudging with the head, is widely used here in Argyll.

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  9. Another possibility for etymology, is that there is a German word, "bunt" meaning colourful.
    Bunting is quite colourful.

    Also, does the name of the group of birds, share the same etymology as the string of flags?

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  10. The surname Bunter is supposed to be a maker of sieves but why Sievewright as well.

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