Posted on | June 3, 2012 | No Comments
As rain falls upon the put out more flags exponents of the Jubilee, bunting comes to mind – and proves to have a German antecdent.
The noun was first used as a bird, perhaps with roots in the sense of bunt meaning thick or plump, and even cognate with the Welsh bontin which means the rump while bontinog is large-buttocked.
In the sense of flags, however, it is of eighteenth-century coining (defined by Johnson as “the stuff of which a ship’s colours are made”). Most likely, it derives from thirteenth-century bolt which meant to sift, as in producing bolting-cloth (which pre-dates the use of bolt in the sense of run away). There is a parallel with the French étamine and the German bunt for coloured. For all that it proclaims, bunting evidently harbours a few mysteries.