Canada Day 2010

Today is Canada Day, so it’s unlikely that there’ll be any other posts today — or, indeed, readers to read them, if there were. Of course, being Canada, we’ve managed to celebrate our nation on a single day that, unless it falls on a Friday or a Monday, doesn’t stretch to a long weekend the way that some other national holidays manage to. I’d like to think it has something to do with a concern about productivity, but . . .

Speaking of productivity, what would an entry on Slaw be if it didn’t produce even some small tidbit of learning for you. Herewith, then, a two-fer.

The flag you see above you is one very regular object. It’s twice as long as it is high. And each of the red bars occupies ¼ of the space, leaving (he calculates quickly) half the flag for the white space — which, to put it another way, is a perfect square. But here all this rectilinear regularity stops: the maple leaf in the middle has eleven points.

Evidently national flags come in size types, according to vexillologists (your new word for the day?). Ours, with a dimension ratio of 2:1, joins the United Kingdom, Australia, Bahamas, and Ireland in this. (The U.S.A. comes close, with a 10:19 ratio. Go figure.) French flags and most Latin American flags sport a 2:3 ratio, while Germany uses 3:5. Then comes the long tail of difference, e.g. Belgium, 13:15; Finnland, 11:18, etc.

Next there’s the small matter of colour. Rose by any other name is not as red. And ours, according to the feds, is either Pantone PMS 032 or PMS 485, depending. It’s that “depending” thing that’s the real kicker: colour is a slippery thing. It depends on what the substance is that’s being coloured; it depends on the nature of the colouring agents; it depends on the “heat” of the light that bounces the colour back to our eyes . . . and so forth.

Oh, and it depends a great deal on the medium. Here on the web, it’s tricky indeed to come up with the proper “equivalent” of PMS 032. I’m on a Mac, for example, which renders colour slightly differently from a Windows machine, and so on. Then there’s the question of which colour space you’re using to create your web flag. As near as I can discover, the red in the Canadian flag is properly rendered online as #f42941 in hex. But I’m sure others will disagree.

So if I can turn this entry into a plea at the last, I’d ask the government to fix the colour for web purposes in the same way it has for print. The day is gone when we have to worry about “web safe colours” — the shrunken gamut that resulted from limits in the technology. And, yes, it won’t be perfect: Mac people will see something a little different from the rest of Canada; and if your settings are non-standard, you’ll see something different again. But it would help to have a national colour we netizens can call our own.

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