Let Your Freak Flag Fly!


As usual with any idiom of this sort, most people either don’t know, or care, how a phrase originated. When attempting to trace the origin of any idiom of this sort, in casual conversation, one tends to hear the response: “Dude, I don’t know, I’ve been saying it for decades.” It is perceived to be uncool, to trace origins of hip phrases in this manner. If an individual were to attempt a true, point of origin trace for their use of the phrase, it might result in something as humdrum as “I think my Cousin Ralphie is cool as hell, and when I heard him say it I wanted some of his cool on me”. If this individual were that honest, they would run the risk of being “so over” as to be drummed out of the “in-crowd”, for that would be deemed a violation of the binary, unspoken agreement those in the “in-crowd” have designed for the world of phraseology. In this world, all users are the point of origin, or they should be considered the originators from the listener’s perspective. If the curious insists on continuing with this line of questioning, they’ll probably find themselves drummed out on an “If you have to ask …” basis.

Freak FlagAnother unspoken rule to the use of idioms, among the in-crowd, is that we had better hurry up and use these phrases as often as we can, because before long someone will come along and inform them that it’s now uncool to say such a thing.  “Dude, that is so over,” they will say.  “Stop saying that.  I’m trying to get the word out that that phrase is over.  Tell your friends.”  We may be disappointed that we are no longer able to use these words, phrases, or idioms, but we will know that we have just been delivered a serious blow in the phraseology world by using something that’s over, and we know we will run the risk of being “so over” by continuing to use it.

For fact checkers, a Google.com search returns that the first time “Let your freak flag fly” was used in public, occurred in a David Crosby song “Almost Cut my Hair” that he wrote for the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young album “Déjà vu”. We can venture a guess, however, that that phrase may have made its way through the “in-crowd” circuit long before Crosby used it in the song.

The Urban Dictionary defines “Letting Your Freak Flag Fly” as: “A characteristic, mannerism, or appearance of a person, either subtle or overt, which implies unique, eccentric, creative, adventurous or unconventional thinking.” 2) “Letting loose, being down with one’s cool self, preferred usage to occur in front of a group of strangers.  Your inner freak that wants to come out, but often is suppressed by social anxiety.”  3) Unrestrained, unorthodox or unconventional in thinking, behavior, manners, etc. One who espouses radical, nonconformist or dissenting views and opinions that are outside the mainstream.  When traveling through the bible belt of the U.S., it’s best not to let your freak flag fly high. Otherwise, you’ll be harassed and attacked by these backwater, backward thinking theocrats.

Most people fly under a flag: Americans fly under the Stars and Stripes; the Irish fly under the Irish tricolor; and the British fly under the Union Jack. There are some people, however, that fly under no flag, and they have this information on hand for anyone that asks. Don’t expect them to admit to flying under a freak flag however, for the very essence of flying under a freak flag is designed to give its flyer an open-ended, free lifestyle persona that doesn’t conform to societal definitions such as definition or allegiance … Even if such a definition extends itself to a freak flag. They’re not Democrats, Republicans, freaks, or even Americans. They’re just Tony, and any attempt that you make to define them as anything but Tony –based upon the things they do and say– will say more about their interrogator and their need for definition, than it does them. They tend to be moral relativists that ascribe to “some” libertarian principles when those principles adhere to pleasing, political policies –that suggest that there are no good guys and that there are no bad guys in the world– but they tend to distance themselves from the libertarian ideals of limited government when it involves fiscal matters, for that would require too much individualism. That would leave too many freak flag flyers without compensation.

Typical, political, freak flag flyers are not backwater, backward thinking theocrats. They tend to be high-minded individuals that fly above those low-minded individuals that believe in nouns (i.e. people, places, and things). They are prone “know things” about those nouns that the average person has never heard, because those people haven’t done their research. Freak flag flyers base their outlier status on anecdotal information about the actions of those nouns that others swear allegiance, and if the “others” knew what freak flag flyers know, they would be just as sophisticated in their approach to allegiances as freak flag flyers are.

As demonstrated, freak flag flyers will raise their flags in political milieus, but some freak flags can involve simple eccentricities and peculiarities. An individual that prefers to listen to difficult and complicated music could be said to have a freak flag that they keep close to their vest when their more normal family and friends are around. An individual that enjoys various concoctions of food, philosophies, and other assorted, entertainment mediums could be said to have a freak flag, and most of these people live otherwise normal lives. Every person can have a freak flag without being a freak, in other words, but the general term “freak flag” is reserved for those with exaggerated preferences and activities that could provide life-altering embarrassment if it made its way out to their more normal friends and family members.

One could find a freak flag in esoteric likes and dislikes, such as a perverted use of balloons in sexual activity, a personality defined by a Mohawk haircut, an apathetic reaction to a suicide, a fear of the nighttime world, and a preference for food that someone hasn’t spoken to. While we would not make an overarching claim –such as that which Phil Donahue used to offer on his day-time talk show after parading a bunch of extreme freak flag flyers– that this is a representation of America, or humanity, we could say that all of us might be able to spot some part of ourselves in the freaks that fly flags here.

Most of us have never had a Mohawk, for instance, but we can identify with the mindset of the individual that once “dared to be different” at some point in their lives with the haircut. We may even go so far as to dismiss our own desires for freak flag definitions, or we may be embarrassed that we ever strove for definition, now that we’re normal, but most of us recall a day when we dared to be different. We may not have a name that sounds like a square peg in a round hole society, such as Todd. We may have a name that sounds more pleasing to the ear, but some part of our personality can identify with their outlier status in some way. We may not be an adult baby, we may not strive to be esoteric in your preferences, but we all have some sort of freak flag that we stand behind to separate us from the rest of the pack.  Some of us are just a little more diligent in our efforts.

Feedback: Everyone has that certain something that they’re proud of/embarrassed by, and we hold them so close to our heart that we feel insecure discussing it among those we deem important.  While some claim that we should all fly our freak flag high, others find that it adds value to their freak flag to keep it close to their heart.  They believe that if everyone knew about it, it would lose that special, individualistic quality that it has for them.  Do you have a special quality/freak flag about you that no one knows about?  Do you find that it’s a struggle to maintain this aspect of your identity, or do you flaunt it?  Or, are you one that enjoys this super-secret part of you so much that you don’t feel the need to share?

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8 thoughts on “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

  1. never been normal, never tried to be & never wanted to be. but i still cant figure out the origin of this phrase. & i am sure there *is* an origin, & it is not one that is, or was, completely unknown. it predates me, it’s more of my parents’ generation. otoh & even though this is the most comprehensive contemplation i’ve yet found, it needs further research & that research needs to be done not in the new & overarching, overbearing aboveground realm but in the archives of the long lost [& probably unsorted, uncatalogued &, thereby & therefore, unreachable] notes from the publications of the underground. ie: i would try paul krasner or tuli kupferberg, hopefully spelled correctly, & what they were saying & reading before anything easily available, down to & including rolling stone.

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  2. Thank you for your comment Dingy Dust. I have been chastized by the freak flag community for not being natural. “You can’t try to be a freak,” those that cling to their flags, and their separation, insist. It has to be organic and fundamental to your being. “You can’t dance in the shadows. You have to be a shadow.” Or something like that. I could’ve been depressed by these people kicking me out of their club, but I’ve found that the truly, fundamentally weird people have some flaw in their constitution that saddens them. If anyone has attached the freak flag to me in anyway, they’ve almost always said it is a fun, entertaining flag that I fly. Anyway, I thank you for your unique take on this matter, and I hope you enjoy some of the other “contemplations” I have on the people that surround me. Let me know if you want some recommendations that I’ve written that I think you might enjoy based on your “abbie normal” mindset. We abbie normals need to stick together.

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      • Nice turn of a phrase Kat. The whimsical question I would ask is where does one fly a freak flag fly? Should it fly high, and if so why? Is it out of pride, is it to create an impression, or is all of that inconsequential blather, and the only thing that matters is that you’re flying a freak flag, and it makes you happy? Thanks for reading Kat. I hope you’ve enjoyed my explorations into the human mind and the human condition.

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  3. rilaly, I enjoyed your musings on this freaky phrase. When I was a teenager in the 1970’s I dreamed of being a hippy when I grew up. But alas, that era had passed, I was just sniffing the residue. One of the phrases I remember was, “Freaky man!” This generally meant that something was not what one would normally expect. Those kinds of experiences seemed to occur quite often with the crowd I hung around with. The word “man” as used here was just added on to mean … uhh… I think it was just added on to the end any statement to indicate that whatever was just said was intended for the person listening, whether a woman or a man. Both phrases: “Let your freak flag fly” and “Freaky man!” speak to something out-of-the-ordinary, I expect that they are linguistically attached. And let’s not forget the the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers man.

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    • I must confess I’ve never heard the phrase: “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers man.” I know how much the “History of my writing” stories bore people. Writers love it. Readers hate it, but I’ll take your compliment as an opportunity to launch. (Skip this if you’re already bored.) This piece began as a much more personal history on idioms and phrases, and how my friends and I progressed (or evolved) from one cool phrase to another in the 80’s. That piece was a blast to write, and I think my buddies would’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, but few outside that inner realm would’ve known what the hell I was talking about. Various editions of it, led me to believe that a hybrid would work, until I arrived at an impersonal, professorial approach that would not only remove the regional aspect of it, but broaden the scope in a manner that more people could enjoy. My instincts proved correct, as this has proved to be one of my most popular pieces, and I accomplished that without sacrificing the material. I would love to read about your progression from “freaky man” to “Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers man”, however. I’ve never heard the latter,and I would love to hear how a cool kid managed to work that phrase into a cool kid context that caused it to transcend to his fellow cool kids. Thanks for reading Freaky Man.

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