Half mast vs half staff

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Oswinw011

Senior Member
Chinese
Search Twitter - Newyork. Mast
As Newyork faced the most death in a day yesterday, "he ordered all flags in New York to be flown at half-mast".

Hi, everyone
How do you view the word Half mast in this context? Would you choose Half mast or Half staff in such official statement?
Here's my confusion: The distinction between this two words does not run deep, though, as the terms are often mixed up, especially in unofficial contexts.
How to Use Half-mast vs. half-staff Correctly – Grammarist

Are flags at half-staff or half-mast?

Im not sure how to use them now.
 
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  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    The answer's in the page you linked to.

    Outside North America, half-staff is not a widely used term, and half-mast is used in reference to half-raised flags both on land and at sea. Half-mast is also preferred in Canada for both uses, though half-staff appears more frequently there than it does outside North America.

    I think I've heard "half-staff" before but I'd only use "half-mast". As the page suggests, "half-staff" is generally used in the US to refer to flags flown low down the mast as a sign of mourning. The Reuters official who composed that tweet is perhaps not an American.
     

    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The answer's in the page you linked to.

    Outside North America, half-staff is not a widely used term, and half-mast is used in reference to half-raised flags both on land and at sea. Half-mast is also preferred in Canada for both uses, though half-staff appears more frequently there than it does outside North America.

    I think I've heard "half-staff" before but I'd only use "half-mast". As the page suggests, "half-staff" is generally used in the US to refer to flags flown low down the mast as a sign of mourning. The Reuters official who composed that tweet is perhaps not an American.
    Got it. Reuters quoted from the Newyork mayor Cuomo, so I think he misused the word. Just now on Twitter, someone from the US said half mast grated on him in Cuomos statement. But there were others saying it was okay.
    So I guess it's up for debate, and most Americans would use "half staff" according to the link. I take this guidance in my writing next time.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    How do you view the word Half mast in this context? Would you choose Half mast or Half staff in such official statement?
    In AmE, I have always heard "half-mast". I have never heard "half-staff".

    A flag "flown at half-mast" is only raised to the mid-point of the flagpole, rather than to the top.
     
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    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In AmE, I have always heard "half-mast". I have never heard "half-staff".

    A flag "flown at half-mast" is only raised to the mid-point of the flagpole, rather than to the top.
    Thanks, dojibear. I found "British flag protocol is that a flag should be flown no less than two-thirds of the way up the flagpole"(Wikipedia). This rule wasn't applied to US?
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I found "British flag protocol is that a flag should be flown no less than two-thirds of the way up the flagpole".
    Where did you find this and what was the context? Does this refer to regular flag-flying? "No less than two-thirds" means it has to be at least two-thirds of the way up, or on the top one-third of the pole. I think it mght refer to a regular flag and this rule is to ensure people makes sure the flag is close to the top of the pole.

    Or does it refer to flags at half mast?
     

    Oswinw011

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Where did you find this and what was the context? Does this refer to regular flag-flying? "No less than two-thirds" means it has to be at least two-thirds of the way up, or on the top one-third of the pole. I think it mght refer to a regular flag and this rule is to ensure people makes sure the flag is close to the top of the pole.

    Or does it refer to flags at half mast?
    Half-mast - Wikipedia
    Control+F would help locate that line.
    I think I got it. Half mast, or one third mast or between are all working.
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I definitely don't trust a twitter person (for grammar or word use) or anyone else on social media.

    The link says Governor Cuomo said "half-mast". Who on earth is "Patrick"?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    The linked article says British protocol (for mourning a death) is to lower the flag, but not half-way. It is lowered from the top by the height of the flag. So it is different from the US.

    But it definitely reports that "half-staff" is used in the US. Who knows?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Half-staff is entirely new to me too.

    I propose that 'Patrick' is a pedantic self-appointed vexillological 'expert' :)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The tradition is to raise the flag to the full height of the pole, then lower it by one flag's breadth*, so that Death's invisible flag can fly above it. (I no longer have the book I got this from, so I can't quote - it must have been the one by L. Whitney Smith, the founder of vexillology.)

    I have heard of 'half-staff', and wouldn't be surprised if it was the official term in the US armed forces, but I've never seen it in actual use, I think.

    * BrE and AmE even have different words for the dimensions, and I'm no longer sure of them.
     
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