“Who is Jack?” This was a question a student asked me when we were talking about flags. The Union Jack is the name of the United Kingdom flag. But who is Jack? I honestly had no idea.  So I set out to find the answer.

intro union jack

The Union part of the name Union Jack is easy to understand. The first version of the flag was made up of the English flag and the Scottish flag, when the two countries formed a union in 1606.

union scot englThe current version of the flag also includes the Cross of Saint Patrick. This is not the official flag of Northern Ireland, but is used to represent the country in the Union Jack. Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland. This version of the flag  was introduced in 1801.

union jackThe Welsh flag is not included in the design because when the flag was first introduced in 1606, Wales was part of England. The Welsh flag (below) was only officially adopted in 1959.

wales

Some people have suggested adding in the Welsh flag, but this idea has not really taken off.

So then, what about Jack? I looked it up online and it turns out that Jack was not a person.  (Although Jack is a popular boys name these days). The word jack was used in the 1600s to mean small. The flag is traditionally called the Union Flag, but it came to be known as the Union Jack because small versions of the flag were used on ships.

bowsprit

As more and more people referred to the Union Flag as the Union Jack, the name Union Jack became co-official. The term Union Flag is also still used today, but it’s much more likely that you’ll hear the term Union Jack.

So there you go! There is nobody called Jack.

Information from: The Flag Institute 


Activity: This article is written in an informal style and contains many phrasal verbs. Can you guess the meaning of them from the text?

  1. To set out (to do something)
  2. To be made up of
  3. To add in
  4. To take off
  5. To look (something) up
  6. To turn out

Can you match these phrasal verbs with these definitions:

A) to include B) to be composed of C) to start being popular D) to do research/ find information E) To start something F) The end result of something

For more on phrasal verbs look here