Robbins: Strange laws from around the globe | VailDaily.com
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Robbins: Strange laws from around the globe

This is the first part of a series.

Strange brew/Kill what’s inside of you — Cream

Remember David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks? This column is the legal equivalent. Maybe I should have titled it Stupid Legal Tricks. But the only real trick is, apparently, that these laws were actually passed. And someone, somewhere, considered each of them a good idea.



Maybe they are cultural things or anachronisms from the past that … oops… never got updated or addressed. Nonetheless, like a dust web in the corner where your tallest wall disappears into the ceiling, each of them persists.

Here, then, in a brief spin about the globe are a Ripley’s sampling of some of the freaks and oddities of law.



Let’s start here on our own shores:

Why does the chicken cross the road? In Quitman, Georgia —the county seat of Brooks County —uh-uh, better not! In Quitman, letting your chicken cross the road is a crime. Perhaps those who wrote the law didn’t like the joke. Or maybe, so perplexed were they by the answer, that they just gave up and outlawed it all together. Spoilsports.

Maybe you had a teacher like I did in elementary school. If one was caught chewing gum in class, the punishment was to stick the be-chewed wad on the end of your nose. The indignity notwithstanding, depending on the particular brand, it imparted a pleasant minty scent right at the working end of one’s schnoz. In Singapore, the punishment is, however, more severe. The fine for ruminating on a cud of Wrigley’s can be a fine of up to $66,000 U.S. dollars and up to two years in prison. Mercifully, there is an exception made for nicotine gum.

If you were planning to hike in your birthday suit in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden in Switzerland once the pandemic is — forgive the pun — behind us, presuming you don’t cover up your birthday suit with something decidedly more modest, you may be spanked with a fine for the pleasure of so doing. The pretty penny this may cost you (although presumably settled up in Francs) could run as high as $165. To say nothing of a potential sunburn.

In Denmark, no weird s—, please. If in a moment of postpartum high, you wished to name your child something akin to Megan Thee Stallion, well it’s a no-no. There is a list of approved names that you can pin on your not-yet-bouncing bundle of joy. Step out of bounds and you can be fined. If you want to use a name that has not been approved, you can apply for special permission from the Family Court. But with roughly 18,000 approved boy names, 22,000 for girls, and roughly 1,000 enlightened unisex names, maybe Mette, Malthe or Louca will suit just fine.

The French, apparently, can be a little testy. If you are inclined to name your pig — presuming you have a pig in the first place — after a head of state, dead or alive, well that’s apparently off-putting to official Gaullist sensibilities. Actually, as of 2013, it is no longer a criminal offense, but may I suggest you stick to something anodyne like Peppa or Porky?

While there is nothing I can find on the books in Portugal about pissing into the wind, better not do so in the lapping waves of the Atlantic. While one would be prudent not to do so in Nazaré, where the waves can tower to the height of a 10-story building, peeing into the ocean may not be worth the relief it may afford. Fines can range up to $700. Makes you wonder who of the Polícia de Segurança Pública are assigned to pee patrol.

C’mon! Defying stereotypes and logic, getting someone too drunk at a pub in Australia can be met with hefty fines.

If you’re a yodeler, crooner, whistler, or prone to loud disquisition with your significant other, best to steer clear of the city of Petrolia in Ontario. Unless, that is, you’ve got some duct tape on your maw. There, peace and quiet is taken to its literal extreme. Should you dispute the silent serenity of the inhabitants at any time, reach for your wallet. Fines can range up to $5,000.

While we’re at it, our northern neighbor has a few other quirks. For example, to sell edible underwear — even in an adult “entertainment store,” you need a food license. According to Canada’s Currency Act of 1985, there are limits to how many coins you can use in a transaction.If paying with nickels, vendors can say no to any purchase over $5, while the loonie limit is $25. Sounds a bit loonie to me as well. Cabbies can’t wear t-shirts in Halifax although, presumably, they may do so under a more appropriate shirt.

And last — for this column anyway — but certainly not least, well pooh on this! In Poland, it is zabroniony (forbidden) to wear your Winnie the Pooh attire, at least in around schools and playgrounds. The Poles, it seems, are rather protective of their young and, as Pooh, however, lovable, is most times sans his pants, flouting Pooh in public is considered just a bit too much.

Next time, we’re on to high heels at the Acropolis, pigeon feeding in Venice, and a slew of other simply weird stuff that persists in the annals of the law from Afghanistan to Lithuania to Zimbabwe.


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