Okay, one more thing about the Rugby World Cup, then I promise I won't write about it again. Well, for a while at least.

Flags are what I want to talk about. There will be thousands of supporters, from countries all over the world, waving their national flags in rugby stadiums up and down the country. So I thought I should know a bit more about the history and meaning and stuff of the flags they're waving - just to be polite.

Big mistake. Have you ever tried to learn about flags? That's some seriously weird stuff right there. To most of us a flag is a flag, but there's way more to it than that and most of it makes sense only to people who know about flags. And that's not me.

Vexillology: This is the scholarly study of flags. There are people out there who are vexillologists - the train-spotters and bird-watchers of flags. Seeing a flag up a pole is the highlight of a vexillologist's day. They love flags so much they even get together every two years at a thing called the International Congress of Vexillology (ICV) to swap flag stories and tell flag jokes. This year the ICV, in August, was in Washington DC, in the United States. And I bet the ICV sure knew how to party.


Blazon: In vexillology a blazon is a formal description of a flag from which the reader can construct the appropriate image of the flag. Blazon is also the name for the words that make up the gobbledook that is a blazon. As well, blazon is also the name for the act of writing a blazon. Which I guess means it is possible for someone to blazon a blazon made up of blazons.

Okay, are we clear so far? No? Don't worry, you're not alone - and there is worse to come, as we consider one of the flags we'll be seeing a lot of this year: the flag of the Republic of South Africa.

The South African flag looks a bit like the flag of Vanuatu, but without the boar's tusk and the crossed namele ferns. The flag of Vanuatu, just out of interest, is seen all around the world on the arse-end of ships because it is a "flag of convenience", which is a dodgy practice within the dodgy world of international shipping. But the flag of Vanuatu will not be seen at the Rugby World Cup 2011 because they lost 86-12 to Papua New Guinea in the qualifying round, so there will be no confusion with the flag of South Africa.

Just to show you how off the hook things are out there in the vexillogical world of the flag people, the blazon of the South African flag is described (or blazoned, I suppose you'd say) as "tierced in pairle couchy, gules and azure, a pairle couchy vert fimbriated or to dexter and argent to chief and base".

And I have absolutely no idea what any of that means. Maybe "couchy" is someone's nickname. To be "fimbriated" doesn't sound like fun. This "dexter" chap could be that bloke off the television show. And weren't "argent" a prog-rock band from the 70s? But that's about as much as I've got to give, blazon-wise.

The South African flag (which was adopted in 1994 - just to show I've done some research and not made all this up) is quite symbolic, apparently, with the Y-shape on it meant to represent a converging of paths for the South African people; the merging of past and present to create one road ahead. And that is a beautiful thing in a flag. And anyone who says it looks like an AFL jumper on its side is probably an Australian and, therefore, lying.

But you can see, from this one simple example, that it is easy to over-think things, flag-wise, when if comes to waving them at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Therefore my advice is to choose your favourite flag, take it along to the game and wave it; or even wave it in your own living room, in front of the TV. But try not to think about the flag you are waving because you will go insane.

And if the flag you are waving happens to be based on the British Blue Ensign, with the Union flag in the upper hoist position, and the Southern Cross, represented by four five-pointed stars in the fly, then all power to you. But definitely do not burn it after the match if we happen to lose as not only is this not a good look but you will have the ICV on to you and, trust me, you don't want that.