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Red flags

Posted by James Briggs on May 23, 2003

In Reply to: Red flags posted by ESC on May 23, 2003

: : : Please look at this sentence,"this document is sufficient to raise red flags,but additional details were required".Does it mean that this document is sufficient to call for people's vigilance?
: : : Thank you for your help!

: : To "raise a red flag" is to alert as to potential danger or trouble ahead, the origin being that red flags are often literally used to warn people of possible peril. Therefore yes, you're right - the document in question contained enough information to put the reader on his guard, but to be absolutely sure if his fears were justified, he required more details.

: Here's what I think of when I hear "raising a red flag": When I was young in the mountains of West Virginia, we had big metal mailboxes by the side of the road. There was a red metal flag attached that we raised when we wanted Moody Vest to pick up our outgoing mail. There are probably many other red flag uses.

: Something that "raises a red flag" causes a person to focus more attention on an issue than usual. Below is another "red flag" saying that has a slightly different meaning:

: LIKE A RED FLAG TO A BULL ? ?An inflammatory action or statement that is likely to a provoke retaliation. Although the bullfighter traditionally waves a red flag in front of the bull, I suspect the color doesn?t matter, and perhaps the flag doesn?t either; the bull would be just as fired up by simply seeing the bullfighter. Still, the thought that bulls particularly dislike red is ingrained in the language. Here is John Lyly, in ?Euphues and His England? : ?He that commeth before an Elephant will not wear bright colors, nor he that commeth to a Bul red.? From "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

Back in the very early days of the motor car in Britain they were limited to 4mph and, as a warning, a man with a red flag had to walk in front.