The more I think about the national anthem, the more annoyed I grow. Take just the half-line "Whose broad stripes." Try to say it ten times rapidly. Can't do it? Neither can I. It's hideously cacophonous: "dstr" is not a songlike sound cluster. And the words are not even true. The stripes on the U.S. flag are actually less broad than the stripes on most flags, just because there are more of them: 13; whereas, for example, on the French tricolor there are 3--which, since they're vertically oriented, are very broad indeed. The ratio of height to width for the average flag is 3 to 5. So say your flag is 5 feet, or 60 inches, wide. If you're French, your stripes are fully 20 inches "broad" (60/3). If you're American, your stripes are not even 3 inches "broad" (36/13). The Union Jack, the enemy's flag for Francis Scott Key, had broader stripes than that. If flag stripe-breadth is the measure of national merit, the U.S. falls sadly short. But like all bad poets, Key is not even thinking of what he means.