It’s fine to use ‘Union Jack’

Union JackMany people insist that a British Union flag may only be referred to as a Union Jack when it is flown on a ship.

This is not the case. It is true that a jack is a small flag used to indicate the nationality of a ship, but the widespread use of Union Jack is legitimate. The Flag Institute explains why:

“From early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the [Union] flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially. Such use was given Parliamentary approval in 1908 when it was stated that ‘the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag’.”

The OED states that Union Jack is now the usual term to describe the national flag of the United Kingdom.

It also is worth noting that the Union Jack has a correct way up. The wide white diagonal stripe should be above the red diagonal stripe on the half of the flag that is closest to the flagpole. (This is because the St. Andrew’s Cross takes precedence over the St. Patrick’s Cross.)


  • The Flag Institute
  • The Oxford English Dictionary Online


2014-04-09 10.42.39The annual British practice of catching swans on the River Thames and its tributaries, and marking the swans to indicate ownership (by the Crown or a corporation).

The practice dates from the twelfth century when swans were an important high-status food. The Crown still retains rights over unmarked mute swans in open water, but the swans are no longer eaten.

Modern swan-upping takes place primarily as part of conservation efforts, and education is now a key part of the undertaking.

The hyphen is recommend by the New Oxford Spelling Dictionary and other older dictionaries, but many modern uses are not hyphenated.

More details on modern swan-upping can be found here and here.