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Canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name (or, less often, some attribute or function) in a visual pun or rebus. The term was derived from the Anglo-Norman cant, meaning song or singing.
French heralds used the term armes parlantes (English: "talking arms"), as they would sound out the name of the armiger. Many armorial allusions require research for elucidation because of changes in language and dialect that have occurred over the past millennium.
Canting arms – some in the form of rebuses – are quite common in German civic heraldry. They have also been increasingly used in the 20th century among the British royal family. When the visual representation is not straightforward but as complex as a rebus, this is sometimes called a rebus coat of arms. An in-joke among the Society for Creative Anachronism heralds is the pun, "Heralds don't pun; they cant."
Examples of canting arms
Personal coat of arms
A famous example of canting arms are those of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (consort of King George VI of the United Kingdom). Her arms (pictured below) contain in sinister (i.e. on the bearer's left, viewer's right) the bows and blue lions that make up the arms of the Bowes and Lyon families.
Municipal coat of arms
Municipal coats of arms which interpret the town's name in rebus form are also called canting. Here are a few examples.
Châteaurenard: Château = castle; Renard = fox
Eberbach (1976): Eber = boar; Bach = brook (wavy blue fess)
of the village of Hensbroek in North Holland interprets the toponym as "hen-breeches" (the toponym is unrelated to either "hen" or "breeches", deriving from a personal name Hein and the Dutch cognate of "brook", i.e. "Henry's brook".)
Berlin (1954): Bär = bear
Torrevieja (1829): Torre = tower, vieja = old
Łódź: Łódź = boat
Wolfsburg: Wolf's Castle
Örnsköldsvik (1894): Örn = Eagle, Sköld = Shield and Vik = Bay.
Ecclesiastical coats of arms
- Neznanich, Modar. "Heraldry for Those Who Cant" (PDF). Retrieved 2 July 2012. Cites 72 historical examples of canting arms, as well as SCA usage.
- Englefield, Eric (1979). Flags. Ward Lock. p. 104.
- Room, Adrian (1988). Dictionary Of Place Names In The British Isles. Bloomsbury. p. 128.
- Weeks, Andrew. "Obdam (The Netherlands)". Flags of the World. CRW Flags. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- Schneider, Klaus-Michael. "Municipality of Manacor". Flags of the World. CRW Flags. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "Bishop Boyea arms". Diocese of Lansing. Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
- "Bishop Barres arms". Diocese of Rockville Centre. Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
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- "Meaning of Arms". Heraldica.org. 2001-06-20.