While we generally think of “the west” as being free, you might be surprised by how many freedoms the US enjoys compare to, say, Europe. In the UK the term “nanny state” has been in use for sometime to describe how much the law has been meddling in their lives.
In 1994, for example, the European Union imposed laws concerning the sale of fruits and vegetables. They made it illegal to sell bananas below a certain size; ones with an “abnormal” shape were equally banned (I’m still working on what’s abnormal for a banana). The same law regulated the curve of cucumbers, the size of cauliflowers, and the greenness of asparagus. Some of the ridiculousness was overturned in 2008, but some of it remains.
Toy safety standards have made it illegal for kids under the age of 8 to blow up balloons without adult supervision. Personally I don’t think it’s a great idea for young kids to blow up balloons because they might do some damage as they try too hard to blow up the balloon, but do you really need a law? And who’s at fault? The adult who’s not there? Weird.
The Swiss have at least a couple of laws I have to admit breaking. It’s illegal for men to pee standing up after 10pm. And if you do break that law, don’t flush – that’s illegal after 10pm as well. On nights out we’d announce to the bar we were off to break the law. Strangely the Swiss didn’t find it that funny.
But it’s the French that have some of the wackiest laws. For example, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon. This could really have put a crimp on Orwell when he penned Animal Farm. Even though his pig Napoleon was based on Stalin, in the French version of the book the pig had to be called Cesar.
But it’s the pants department were things are most confusing. In Paris it is illegal for a woman to dress like a man – so pants are out. This was basically the law that was used to condemn Joan of Arc to death. Pretty sad really, because all she was trying to do was give herself a good chance of fighting off rape by the guards in her prison.
Things have been done to improve the chances of women wearing pants in Paris. In the 1800s women could dress like a man if they obtained permission from the police department. A century later, women could wear pants if they were holding the reins of a horse or a bicycle (I don’t think there was a test case to establish whether there had to be a horse on the other end of the reins at the time).
The whole pants problem has been solved in a wonderfully French fashion (sorry, couldn’t resist), it’s a stupid law so they ignore it. I imagine they’re hoping European lawmakers are kept busy with the bent banana issue.
So, what law would you like to break? Or maybe you’re already a wanted criminal with a bent cucumber and an illegally named pig? Let us know, we promise not to tell.
Canada has many many laws. but I’d like to break the ones about Canadian content. we don’t get the full version of netflix & we dont’ get Hulu at all. and yes, I know the internet is free and open to all but if you believe that i’d like to sell you a bridge, in Brooklyn. Because of Canadian content rules, we have different and limited access to things I might like to see. even youtube and comedy central are limited a bit.
i understand why but i’d still like to have the ability to make that choice
The balloon law is one I can understand. If a child inhales the balloon, their throat will be blocked, with plastic, no less, and they can die. It has happened. In addition, small children, three and under, have a tendency to bite things, teething or not, making a balloon a very dangerous toy should a piece become lodged in their throat.
So, now that you know the reasoning, likely you think it is a good law, and not a weird one.
But the banana? I am outraged! That is blatant discrimination.
Pants in Paris? Peeing standing up in Switzerland? Gloria, pack your bags and grab your passport. I sense a challenge!
I can understand the cucumber law. My sister-in-law gets cucumber rejects from a nearby greenhouse. If I put up photos of the ones she brought me yesterday, I’d likely get banned from WordPress for posting obscene content.
Here in Alberta, it’s illegal for a man to pee in public… unless he’s peeing on the back tire of his own vehicle. Then it’s fine. (No definitive laws for females, but I have stories…) So if you’re visiting Alberta and you see a guy standing beside his car, staring off into the distance, don’t stop to ask directions. Trust me on this.
In the post 9-11 authority feeding frenzy all levels of government can be seen embracing idiotic new laws. It’s likely more fun for them than doing any real work. The Congress is now trying to extend the authority of the TSA to cover all public tranportation. How many dollars will that cost? Soon we might need to be groped or strip searched to get on the subway or bus. I suppose the next step will be to extend the TSA authority over private vehicles because they are suspiciously using roads that public transport uses and they ALL could be (and frequently are) used as weapons.
We are expected to put up with ever higher levels of absurdity and abuse in the name of “security” while the White House is refusing to deport ilegal alliens, multibillion dollar bank fraud cases go unprosecuted and the states are so broke that they are releasing convicted violent felons after serving less and less time.
So, if they catch any bad guys on a bus they likely will have to release them any way due to lack of funds but at least we can feal safe that no senior citizens will smugle any shampo bottles onto buses in their bra or hiden in thier walkers.
I would never abuse an innocent animal by naming it after a politician. I’ve even stoped calling my least favorite congressmen “whores” because too many of them can’t meet that high a standard any more.
Yeah, TSA screening is about as useful as locking, bolting, cross bracing, and training rifles on the front door, then leaving all the windows open. Don’t let on the 45,000 people die on the roads every year or they’ll have a feeding frenzy.
This is a riot, Nigel! So banana inspector is a career choice in the U.K.? I can only wear skirts and dresses if I visit Paris? And what do the Swiss think is happening after 10pm when a guy pees standing up?
Crazy stuff. Thanks for sharing!
Banana Inspector? Now there’s a thought. I like bananas, I wonder how much a job like that pays?
Oh yes, skirts it is if you’re visiting Paris. Just do your best to ignore the 3 million other women wearing pants while you’re there, they’re breaking the law. Honest.
Ahh, yes, the European Union, where would we be without them. Solvent for one! But don’t get me started on the Euro debacle.
It’s strange, because now we’re in a recession all the supermarkets are selling ‘value’ fruit and vegetables which are not perfect and that includes bananas. Who’s going to police cucumbers etc?
You couldn’t make it up, Nigel.
LOL. “Value” fruit and vegetables! I’m surprised you haven’t applied to be a checker, to make sure the bananas and cucumbers are all straight and firm.
This is great! Who knew about fruits and veggies in the UK and bathroom activities in Switzerland? LOL!
I just got back from France, and luckily no one came after us for wearing slacks. While at a convenience store, we found some interesting (and stupid IMO) things that are legal there, but not in the US: giant size candy bars labeled as “King Size” (as opposed to “Shareable” which is what they need to say in the US), and chocolate eggs with toys inside, also not legal in the US.
One I found equally mind-boggling was when I visited Canada last year. We have caffeine-free Mtn Dew here, but it’s explicitly labeled as such. In Canada, it’s ALL caffeine-free – because it’s illegal to put caffeine in light-colored sodas, who knew? Next time I go, I’m taking my own. 😀
Glad to hear you managed to evade capture by the Gendarmes. “King size” is illegal in the US? I never knew. As for illegal caffeinated light colored sodas, you just can’t make up stuff so good, can you?
I was living in London when the rule about the bananas, cucumbers, etc went into effect. A friend of mine told me about it and I thought he was kidding.
I’m sure New York still has a lot of zany laws on the books, I’d probably want to break all of those. But I can’t think of a specific law that I’d want to break, aside from random acts of murder. I’m disappointed in myself.
Hi Madame Weebles.
So you lived in London under the tyranny of the fruit and vegetable police? According to CC they’re now selling “value” stuff which doesn’t meet the EU standards (ie the stuff that’s perfectly good but thrown away because it doesn’t look like it was modeled by Disney).
Good luck with the random acts. maybe you can get the Weebles to join in?
Hmm… Well I definitely broke that pants-wearing rule when I lived in Paris. Do you happen to know if digging a whole near and burying something near the Eiffel Tower is illegal. Uh, just curious!
If I ever get a pig, maybe I’ll name it bent cucumber (Cuke for short), doll her up in a suit and take her to France. Awesome post, Nigel. 🙂
Hi August, you rebel. Fancy breaking the pants wearing rule. I guess the Gendarmes were distracted by you burying something near the Eiffel Tower. I must admit I did notice a small hill that wasn’t there a few years ago.
If you do get a pig, please send photos!
I wonder if the laws about the produce have their basis in weights and measures… the idea being that they can be taxed based on a cost for value basis (which, of course is BS as someone who grew up on a truck farm knows… it’s the variety of seed, the soil and the weather that makes for a good crop).
Not saying that there aren’t some inane laws over in Europe. There are some amazingly stupid laws still on the books in the US too. For instance, our main car passes the NY state vehicle inspections just fine, but if I drive 40 miles east to MA…it would fail because of body rust. However, our truck, which has no body rust, but is starting to burn oil… that’ll pass in MA, but failed its emissions tests in NYS.
Oh, and donkeys can’t sleep in bathtubs. http://www.funtrivia.com/en/subtopics/The-Peach-State-189314.html
Sorry, WordPress marked your comment for moderation because of the links. Thought I’d mention that because I hate it when I spend the time to comment and then is doesn’t appear.
I have to laugh at your state inspection. Years ago in the UK people used to do things to their cars that made the terrible to drive but allowed them to get through the inspection, then once they’d passed they’d fix their car back to normal again.
And I promise not to let my donkey sleep in the ub if you promise not to tie up your giraffe to a lamppost while you go shopping, ok?
Thanks for the comment 🙂
Hehehe. Those are some pretty crazy rules. That must take you some pretty fancy internet footwork to find all that information. As far as I know my record is still clean on all those counts. But I may try to change that NOW. Those are just ridiculous. LOL! Thanks for sharing.
Glad to hear that you’re a law abiding citizen, but if you are thinking of turning into a reckless runaway, I’d suggest starting small. What about adopting a Napoleonic pig?
As an American with 400 years of down home rebel in my blood, my first instinct is to travel to Switzerland and flush toilets all night and then go to France and purchase an entire herd of pigs and name them all Napoleon. I will then put on a pair of pants and sit on the rail of the pig pen eating misshapen bananas as I fail to supervise a bevy of young children blowing up balloons around me. Great post, Nigel. 🙂
I admire your inner rebel, Piper. I’m not sure as it’s on the books, but perhaps you could dress the female pigs in pants, just to cover all the bases.
LOL. Great idea! Want to help?
How about I hold the camera, because I’d love to see you try and put pants on pigs 😀
Loved this, Nigel! When I was taking Texas history as a kid, I learned that it is illegal in our Lone Star State to spit on the sidewalk–a law that was passed when women wore long skirts and didn’t want to pick up saliva onto their dress hem.
It is also illegal in Texas to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel. Presumably, first floor hunting is fine.
Finally, this one is broken daily in my state: No taking more than three sips of beer while standing.This could become a drinking game: Anyone who doesn’t sit down for their fourth sip is out.
I love the buffalo shooting thing. Second floor only, huh? Can you imagine checking in to the Omni in Dallas. “Will you be shooting buffalo, sir? Because we find the 23rd floor gives just the right range and angle. Course, Buffalo are scare in downtown, but you never know.”
The 3 sips of beer sounds like a classic for drinking games. We used to do one where everyone had to be addressed by the name of their person to their left – and that was bad enough (or good enough, depending on how you look at drinking games!)
Hope you have a great weekend!
Shape-challenged bananas everywhere are protesting! Banana activists plan plan to lay down in front of anyone who gets in their way and make them slip up (I think they’ve succeeded.)
We (in the UK) do have some ridiculous laws. But can I think of one that particularly bugs me at the moment. Can I heck! Oh well… another time.
I do remember one from a long long time ago about not spitting out of a moving train window. Is that one still in force somewhere? I mean, who’s going to suffer from that? Sheep?
Ha! I think I can remember signs saying no spitting from trains. Glad to hear banana activists are going to be out in bunches. Perhaps they can campaign for sheep’s rights while their at it!