Flying at half stuff [ staff] /at the half mast


Senior Member
I am wondering how to say that the flag is flying at the middle of the post. I saw the following sentences, but I am not sure if they are right since one of them does not have the artical "the" in it.

"Obama ordered that flags be flown at half staff."

"The flag is flying at the half mast today. "
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    U.S. newspaper style dictates that "half mast" is appropriate only aboard ship or at Naval installations.

    Otherwise, it's half-staff.

    Not all AE speakers observe the distinction, however.

    In any event, it's not "the half-staff."


    Senior Member
    U.S. newspaper style aside, "to be at half mast" also means that a person's trouser zipper is open. Most AE speakers learn and use that expression before they are old enough to read newspapers.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'd never heard 'half staff' before.

    Interesting. Reuters' (British) "Handbook of Journalism" says:

    Hyphenate. Strict military protocol distinguishes between half-mast for ships and naval stations and half-staff for other uses on land. (Which is logical since masts with sails are seldom found on land)

    On the other hand, Google hits of BBC usage seems to go with "half-mast."

    As an aside, I don't think Flagstaff, Arizona would like to change its name to "Flagmast."