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Is the expression "Seal of" on the Seal of the President of the United States redundant, or does it bear some historical heritage of some sort?

To me, it's like writing "Flag of the United States" on the flag of the United States. Or do I miss the point?Seal of the President of the United States

closed as off-topic by Bruce James, Pieter Geerkens, CGCampbell, Gwen, TheHonRose Dec 26 '15 at 3:17

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    No. "Redundant" is saying something twice (perhaps a slightly different way), not saying something that is self-evident. If it said "Seal of the POTUS Seal", that would be redundant. – T.E.D. Dec 24 '15 at 14:48
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    The difference with your flag example is that you would see the "flag of" on the flag itself. With the seal, you're usually looking at an imprint made by the seal. – Semaphore Dec 24 '15 at 14:57
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it should be migrated to the English language site. It is a question of grammar, not history. – Bruce James Dec 24 '15 at 17:00
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    @BruceJames - How about if we change it to the question that the accepted answer addressed instead? – T.E.D. Dec 25 '15 at 21:19
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I think what you are trying to ask is, why is the identification of this seal on the seal itself necessary? Isn't it self-evident that its a seal?

This is fairly typical form for a seal historically.

Historically, the majority of seals were circular in design, although ovals, triangles, shield-shapes and other patterns are also known. The design generally comprised a graphic emblem (sometimes, but not always, incorporating heraldic devices), surrounded by a text (the legend) running around the perimeter. The legend most often consisted merely of the words "The seal of [the name of the owner]", either in Latin or in the local vernacular language: the Latin word Sigillum was frequently abbreviated to a simple S:. Occasionally, the legend took the form of a motto.

So there was certainly nothing novel about the POTUS seal using those words.

I'm not sure if I can dig up the exact history of the logic behind that design decision. However, one should note that the purpose of seals historically was document authentication. From that perspective, one could see where it might be useful to both identify that the image is in fact a seal (and not some random doodle), and who the authenticating authority is.

  • I get it now. So, the text seen here is not part of the seal per se itself even if it accompanies it all the time. It's called 'legend' for a reason. – Olivier Malki Dec 24 '15 at 16:45
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The phrase has been there for a long time - it is evident on drafts before the existence of the United States - check wikipedia, which also notes that there isn't a great deal of good documentation about the history of the seal.

Ultimately, I think that this is an artifact of a time when people were more fond of redundant naming.

  • Worth noting that English monarchs stopped having "seal of" on their seals since Edward the Confessor so I'm not sure about it being a periodic artifact. But I do think your implication that it's there because people of the time just didn't see anything wrong with the potential redundancy is certainly a valid enough point, so +1 – Semaphore Dec 24 '15 at 15:03

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