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Great for a Laugh

Winston Churchill once said, “If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.”

In Liverpool, England, a saleswoman who goes topless in a store is breaking the law. Unless of course she is working in a tropical fish store, in which case it’s ok. In Georgia, it is illegal to undress a mannequin in a storefront unless the shades are pulled down. In France, it is forbidden to name a pig Napoleon.

The law can be an awfully funny thing. Except of course when you’re getting arrested for breaking one. For thousands of years, laws that defy good sense and logic have been getting people in trouble. While some bizarre laws go back to a time when things were done differently, and others somehow remain in the law books but are no longer enforced, many are actually still valid today. At the least, there are laws that are curiously weird and make you wonder how they ever came into existence. At the most, there are some that will make you laugh your head off.

United States of Silliness

The United States has long been known for being “the land of the free”. There is no doubt that in many ways, it truly is. But when you dig deep into the law books of some of the individual states, you will find that some of the laws are not only overly constricting, but also ridiculous.

In West Virginia, there’s a law that states that only babies can ride in baby carriages. Although it is not exactly clear how many adults desire to ride in baby carriages, it does seem a little unfair to those who wish to do so. In Chicago, it is illegal to take a French poodle to the opera. This seemingly unconstitutional law has outraged poodles not only in Chicago, but also all over the country. In Utah, birds have the right of way on all highways. Many birds have filed complaints with state police that humans are constantly breaking this law.

In Miami, it is illegal to skateboard in all police stations. We hear that they are also planning on passing laws against trampoline jumping and fire juggling in police stations. In Ohio, it is against the law to get a fish drunk. Since the law passed, many Ohioans are now serving their fish non-alcoholic beverages like O’Douls. In Nevada, the state that is home to Tusker Trail, it is illegal to drive a camel on the highway. Tusker Trail is working hard to get this law rescinded. Many camels have expressed how offended they are by this law and have been migrating to California where the laws are much less strict on this matter.

If you think the laws in the United States are ridiculous, check out the rest of the world for some truly weird ones.

World of Weird

It’s no surprise that some of the weirdest laws in the world come from some of the most exotic countries in the world that still have a strong connection to old traditions. From London to South Korea and many places in between, laws can very often seem as if they defy all logic.

In London, there is a law that states it is illegal to die in the House of Parliament. While there are no records of any deaths within the building, there have been reports that many people on the verge of death have run outside to croak on the sidewalk. Also in London, Royal Navy ships that enter the port are required to give the Constable of The Tower of London a barrel of rum. Not surprisingly, the Constable is a lively drunk and a very fun chap with whom to hang out. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished with death before a firing squad. On a side note, there is no law stating that the firing squad has to be sober when shooting at the drunk driver. In Montreal, it is forbidden to curse in French. Thanks to Quebeckers being a multi-lingual bunch, there is no shortage of cursing in other languages.

In Israel, it is forbidden to blow your nose on Saturdays. It is not uncommon to see Israeli citizens in a nose-blowing frenzy on Friday night, trying to clear the passage for the sabbath. In South Korea, police officers are required to report all of the bribes they have accepted throughout the day. If they fail to do so and get in trouble, they may bribe their way out of it. In Lengbern, New Zealand, there is a law that states that cats may only leave the house with three bells around their necks. This is due to a high incidence of cats killing defenseless birds.   Cats have filed a complaint with a higher court, stating that having to wear bells around their necks is loud and annoying.

While many of the laws of the world will never cease to defy logic, the law is the glue that holds civilization together and ignorance is no excuse.

Ignorance of the Law

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat – Latin for “Ignorance of the law excuses no one,” is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content.

It is especially important that this principle be kept in mind by readers of GEOGRAFICA, who all have a strong sense of wanderlust and frequently find themselves in far off lands where things don’t quite work like they do back home. On all your travels, be safe, enjoy yourself and make sure you are aware of the laws, regardless of how weird they are!