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Pennants and Wimpels

Last modified: 2013-04-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: pennants | wimpels |
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From the Dictionary of Vexillology:

PENNANT
1) A general (and imprecise) term for flags which are not strictly rectangular.
2) A flag which will usually (but not exclusively) narrow in width between the hoist and the fly, and which may be triangular, square-ended or swallow-tailed (see also ‘swallow-tail(ed)’ and ‘trapezoid’).
WIMPEL
See 'A pennant in national/livery colours or with a simplified charge, that is flown in place of a national or other flag to avoid the appearance of an empty flag pole - especially popular in Northern Europe and Scandinavia but increasingly used in the UK.

In northern Europe, it is common to use a narrow streamer or pennant on the flagpole when the flag is not used. These are not legally regulated but based on tradition, at least that's the case with the Swedish one and I think it's the same in the other countries too.  At the "Nordic House" in Tˇrshavn in the Faroe Islands, streamers like these have been used to represent the countries. However, they did not manage to get the correct ones. See this picture http://www.heraldik.se/heraldica/user_files/Sn%F8dugg/200961371614_nordis_hus.jpg. The pennant of Sweden should just be parted along the pennant with blue over yellow, it shouldn't have a cross. The pennant of Norway should be parted in red-white-blue-white-red along the pennant, with the white lines being narrower. It should also not have a cross. It can be seen in the Norwegian Air Force badge. I think the Finnish, the Danish and the Greenlandic pennants are correct, while the Aland Islands pennant is not.
Elias Granqvist, 11 July 2009

See the articles on Swedish pennants and Finnish husband pennants, which they are called pennants. It is good to have an English word for this, since a pennant in English is rather a flag for showing military rank and doesn't have to be narrow and triangular. The Swedish term is vimpel, just as in Danish. In Finnish, it is called viiri.
Elias Granqvist, 12 July 2009

In Norway there are two kinds of streamers. One is with stripes, red-white-dark blue-white-red. This is the common type, and is usually hoisted near cabins used for holidays. In some areas they are also hoisted near the common houses, where people live their daily lives. This struck me a couple of years ago, when I visited an area near Aalesund, where many houses had those streamers hoisted outside their houses. In my area (Bergen), streamers are dominantly used for cabins. Usually common Norwegian flags are hoisted outside our domestic homes. There are some exceptions, though. Everyone can chose what they want.

In addition to the mostly used streamer, the one with stripes, there is one type of streamer, called "korsvimpel", i.e. "cross streamer". I do knot know whether this is made as a standard product these days, but they can frequently be seen in the area near Bergen. According to Jahn Christian Olsen, who used to be the owner of the now non-existing flag factory in Bergen, this streamer also was named "Bergensvimpelen" ("The Bergen streamer"), as it exclusively was produced by his factory those days (about 10 or 15 years ago).

This cross streamer usually is treated like the Norwegian flag, being hoisted in the morning and lowered in the evening, just like an ordinary Norwegian flag. Also the cross streamers are usually hoisted near cabins, although they sometimes are hoisted near the ordinary homes of people. When I was a young boy (about 1954-64?), many children flew Norwegian cross streamers (rather short ones) from their bicycles(!). I have not seen that for many years. And one of the big warehouses in the city of Bergen (Sundt& Co) used to fly 6 cross streamers, about two stores tall. Nowadays they still often fly Norwegian streamers, but in these days they are not cross streamers, sadly enough. I suppose that is because the cross streamers do not seem to be in ordinary production, after the flag factory in Bergen was shut down.

The streamers are uofficial flags, and there are no standard proportions.
Helge Jacobsen, 12 July 2009

"Pennant" was one of the more difficult terms for the Editors of the Dictionary of Vexillology to define, and even now we are not particularly happy with it. I mean to say what actually defines a pennant? If an official source says so - the RN "commissioning pennant" for example - then there's no problem, but whilst a "lance flag" could definitely be so considered, is the "guidon" of a cavalry regiment also a pennant? Since this last acts in the same way as the "military colour" of an infantry regiment, possibly (if not probably) no it isn't - yet some sources would maintain that it was?

In the end we have suggested that "more precise terms (such as 'burgee', 'masthead pennant' etc) are to be preferred in description", and I am still inclined to think that the term "pennant" used without qualification is (at the same time) both too contentious and too generic to be truly useful.
Christopher Southworth, 12 July 2009

I would suggest gentlemen, that this 'object' [a wimpel-shaped advertising banner in USA] comes under the heading of "flagoid", which the DoV (in concert with the term's originator) defines as follows:
FLAGOID
A recently coined term which is used to describe the illustration of a flag, or of a flag-like object, which is not intended to represent any flag in actual use, but which has the backing of some credible source and/or which employs a widely recognized emblem as part of its design - but see 'fictional flag' and 'fictitious flag'.
Christopher Southworth, 12 July 2009