I love bunting. From celebration bunting, wedding bunting, decorator bunting to bunting with a special milestone message, count me in. In fact I love anything that can be draped or festooned. For me bunting is a clever touch that packs a big punch by quickly amping up an event or space.
I also love the derivation of words and phrases. I am an amateur etymologist. I am fascinated by the way words come into vogue. I eagerly wait for the Macquarie Dictionary to announce its annual word of the year. How excited was I when in February this year the Dictionary announced mansplain as 2014 word of the year and share plate as the people’s choice. I am now on a mission to make bunting the word of the year.
So you can imagine my shock when I was asked at a recent designer market “What is the exact difference between bunting and a garland?” But shock soon turned to curiosity. Surely those who love special touches and event flourishes would know. Surely Ita Buttrose had spoken on the subject. Alas no – so I had to dig a little deeper.
Today bunting refers to brightly coloured triangular or pennant shaped flags made of fabric, paper, wood or even plastic strung together and used for parties and special events. But bunting historically refers to a collection of naval flags used to communicate messages and signals.
It is believed the word bunting derived from the material it was created from called buntine an open weave lightweight wool fabric used on navy boats for flags because of its ability to hold colour over a long period of time. In turn, the word buntine is thought to have derived from bonting the middle English term for fabric.
In fact the officer responsible for raising signals using flags is known as "bunts", a term apparently still used for a ship's communications officer. If the history of fabric fascinates you, you can keep researching in books such as Eric Kerridge’s Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England for weeks.
Garlands on the other hand are a decorative wreath or chord, originally made of flowers or foliage, worn for ornament, as an honour or hung on something for decoration. The word comes from the French "guirlande", itself from the Italian "ghirlanda", a braid.
According to my dearest friend, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Garlands can be a band, or chain joined at the ends to form a circle (wreath) worn on the head (chaplet) or draped in loops (festoon or swag). Britannica also tells us Garlands have been a part of religious ritual and tradition since Egyptian times when garlands of flowers were placed on mummies as a sign of celebration in entering the afterlife. The Greeks decorated their homes, civic buildings, and temples with garlands and placed them crosswise on banquet tables. In ancient Rome, garlands of rose petals were worn, and carved wooden festoons decorated homes. What great gifts to the world from the funky Romans – aqueducts and festoons.
So now I get it the distinction!!! Bunting describes flags or flag- a-like treasures. A garland is a decorative chord or chain of flowers, ornaments or shapes. But the main thing is they both can be draped and looped to form a decorative statement. And you can’t have too much draping, looping, festooning or swagging I say.
I particularly love the wooden chalkboard bunting that my sister and I found in the States, because it can be used over and over again – the more gatherings and milestones you have the more magnificent messages.
Our chalkboard bunting has been used to celebrate everything from a wedding wishing well, to the countdown to Christmas to Australia Day and a welcome home to a rabbit which had been lost.
The bunting comes with 15 discrete pieces which covers all the majors – Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, World’s Best Dad, and Class of 2015. That’s before you get to the hours of endless fun describing your message in 15 characters of less – about 10.7 % of a tweet. And since I found out a great tip for keeping the actual chalkboard extra clean I am unstoppable – just wipe on a bit of coca cola (no kidding) on the chalkboard and hey presto – crisp streak free bunting even the royal navy would be proud of.