It's time to salute our state flag and quit quibbling over the meaning of its design.

Whatever it is, it's working.

Now, everyone likes our flag but people also like to argue about that crescent shaped doohickey in the upper left corner.

Some say it's obviously a moon shining over the palmetto tree. Then, those who want to be more historically accurate, note that the crescent is actually a gorget - a metal thing soldiers wore around their necks for protection in battle.

That's probably the right idea, but state officials have been moving and fiddling with the crescent for years, making it look more and more like a moon.

And it's paid off.

This week, the website Supercompressor ranked all 50 state flags, and South Carolina's came out No. 1. Our flag always ranks near the top in these things (one of the few good lists where we are competitive). Now this flag-ranking has been happening a lot lately because 1) people like lists, and 2) have you seen most other state flags?

But we didn't win because our flag depicts a gorget and a palmetto tree as a symbol of the fort walls that repelled cannonballs from the British Navy in an early round of the Revolutionary War.

No, we won because our flag looks like a Jimmy Buffett song.

So it's time to embrace that.

Truth in advertising

It's really not fair to compare our state flag to the others.

Most other states just slap their state seal on some dull-colored banner. And state seals are, by law, just about the lamest things ever.

For instance, Kentucky's seal - and flag - says "United we stand, divided we fall." It has two white guys, one of whom may be Daniel Boone, shaking hands.

Uh, white guys are doing a pretty good job sticking together these days. Maybe it's time for a little more diversity, or at least give one of the guys a Louisville Slugger and have the other guy lying bloody on the ground. Showing that "divided we fall" part would be more entertaining and politically accurate.

Of course, if these folks really want to compete with South Carolina, they should follow our lead and make their flags attractive - or at least advertise what's really going on their neck of the woods.

See, South Carolina's flag says folks here sit under palm trees on moonlit nights.

By comparison, Iowa's says, "Hey, that eagle is going to choke on a big long ribbon."

In that spirit, here are a few tips for our neighboring states:

Florida's state flag is a red "X" - like the Confederate battle flag X - with the state seal in the center. What they should have is Mickey Mouse driving a backhoe, infilling the Everglades.

Louisiana's flag features a pelican in its nest with some chicks. This is OK, but if you want to update it, maybe smear some BP oil on them, and maybe add an environmentalist trying to scrub it off.

Tennessee's flag is red, white and blue with three stars in the middle. Replace the three stars with the three predominant images of the state - Elvis, Dolly Parton and a meth lab trailer. That's truth in advertising.

Georgia's flag, which changes every day, is alternately some Southern heritage thing or a bureaucratic seal. What would be more accurate is to depict a bunch of white guys with guns running off the Indians, while others build another Home Depot on sacred Cherokee land.

Ohio's flag is a really strange looking pennant. What they really need is a flag that shows Interstate 77 and a line of cars on it, all of them headed for South Carolina.

And finally, Mississippi's flag is a cross between the First National flag of the Confederacy and the Confederate battle flag.

Actually, that's sums up what's going on there pretty well.

Good job, Mississippi.

Smiling tourism folks

Flags are all about symbols, and you know how we Southerners love symbols.

A lot of those state seal flags have the right idea, depicting the state's commerce or cash crops - you know, corn, clear-cutting, strip mining.

Since tourism is our No. 1 industry, that's what our flag should depict.

So we need to quit fighting over the meaning of symbols on our gallant blue banner. If our boys 150 years ago had not spent so much time fussing over flags, they might have fared better in other arenas.

If you want to contend that the crescent is a gorget and the palmetto tree represents Fort Sullivan (later Fort Moultrie), you are correct. But let's keep that on the down-low.

It's much better for our flag to serve as free advertising for Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places.

Helen Hill and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will thank you.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.