Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Give each country a blank canvas with no rules, and you can expect the results to be... unique.

  • But strangely, national flags are pretty similar.

  • 44 have three horizontal stripes, 10 have one five pointed star on the left side, and only 11 flags aren't red or blue.

  • And sure, maybe these are just popular colors, but then where is the much-loved purple?

  • The necessary coloring wasn't always easy to come by.

  • But it's 2016, and this is still the most purple flag; you've got to be kidding me.

  • Of course there are a few oddball flags, but they're mostly different for the same reason: weird shapes.

  • So let's settle this: why are flags so similar?

  • The idea of a flag is to reflect its country; take the national history, identity, or even appearance.

  • Transfer it to a rectangle and, voila! A flag!

  • But this means that similar countries conveying similar things can have similar flags.

  • The Arab Revolt was a pretty big deal.

  • Its flag became the inspiration for much of the middle East.

  • Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Sudan, Syria, the UAE, Palestine, Yemen, Somaliland, and Libya share a history, and thus similar flags.

  • Cyprus, a master of copy-paste, has no overlap to worry about.

  • With no restraints, flags could easily all be unique.

  • But countries often follow rules of design, and with everyone, the pool of possible flags shrinks.

  • Simplicity is a common recommendation, which makes for a pretty flag, but not always a distinct one.

  • Monaco, Indonesia, and Poland accidentally sacrificed originality for elegance.

  • Other countries take inspiration from their neighbors. The story of the Nordic Cross goes something like this:

  • Denmark found this design and announced "Hey look! We have a new flag!"

  • To which Sweden replied: "How odd! We also have a new flag..."

  • Finland, Norway, and Iceland, not wanting to feel left out, all nodded along.

  • And, Greenland pretended not to hear.

  • But perhaps, all this isn't so bad.

  • If the rectangles which represent us are so similar, maybe we're all more alike than it seems.

  • Or, perhaps, we're just not very creative for the flags.

  • Can someone create a purple flag? Just one, please? Just need one...

Give each country a blank canvas with no rules, and you can expect the results to be... unique.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it