There is presently a discussion taking place on the forum of the International Association of Amateur Heralds about what we Amateur Heralds should call ourselves. Are we amateur heralds, armorists, heraldists or even heraldrists? Fellow blogger and well known expert in the field of heraldry, David Appleton, reminded us that the term for non-professional heralds proposed by Marcel van Rossum, Deputy State Herald of South Africa, and which met with some approval from some of the Canadian heralds, is: "academic herald."
I have to say that I quite like the description “academic herald”. As a purely academic exercise I thought I would spend a moment or two analysing the term academic in relation to our hobby.
As an adjective, I don’t think it could be disputed that we are students of the subject and that our studies are liberal or classical rather than technical or vocational. It could be argued with some success that we are collegiate; we belong to a scholarly organization (or at least one which encourages learning). I am quite sure that many of us would have to plead guilty to being so absorbed in heraldry that we have become scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world.
Whilst our hobby is not entirely based on formal education, it does rely on its practitioners being knowledgeable in their subject and this undoubtedly takes a great deal of study. Our science can be described as formalistic or conventional and, at least as far as we are concerned, practical and it also meets the charge of being theoretical or speculative. We would, I hope, defend ourselves strongly against one particular description of the term academic; the charge that our hobby is without a practical purpose or intention or having no practical purpose or use.
If however we are to adopt the term academic herald as a self description we must examine the term academic as a noun to see how it fits.
We might have some difficulty claiming that we are a member of an institution of higher learning. I don’t think that our Association would claim such an exalted status. We may however be able to persuade others that we have an academic viewpoint or a scholarly background.
Academic Herald …. Hmm.