“If the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot.”
So says Mr Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Mr Bumble was referring to matters matrimonial, but the law can be an ass, or at least antiquated, in many other ways. Most countries have instances of silliness on their statute books as the following selection from France shows.
- It is illegal to carry live snails on a French high-speed train, unless they have a ticket
A Frenchman was fined in 2008 when a ticket inspector caught him carrying the critters on board a TGV. Turns out any domesticated animal under five kilos must be a paying passenger.
- It is illegal to fly over or land flying saucers in the southern French town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The town’s forward-thinking leaders passed a municipal decree in 1954 that is still on the books and was recently upheld. It appears the law was a creative marketing campaign, the son of the former mayor has said. The town is known worldwide for its strange anti-UFO legislation.
- It is illegal to kiss while a train is in the platform
This old law was apparently introduced at the request of rail chiefs in order to prevent the amorous French from delaying the departure of trains. All kissing on the platform must be done before the train departs.
- It is illegal to have unlimited, self-service ketchup in French school cafeterias
In 2011 French authorities banned it, along with unlimited mayonnaise and vinaigrette salad dressing, in an effort to promote healthy eating among kids. However, ketchup can still be served with certain meals, such as chips (otherwise known as French fries).
- French law requires that 40% of the music played on private radio stations must be of French origin
Since 1996 the country’s top media regulator the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel has been charged with enforcing the rule. CSA also demands that half of the French music required by the quota be less than six months old.
- Pig owners can’t call their cochon Napoléon
Former emperor Napoléon Bonaparte apparently introduced this law to avoid himself becoming the subject of mockery.
- A mayoral decree in the tiny northern French village of Lhéraule obliges a minimum level of politeness in the Town Hall
The rules say you can be thrown off the premises if you don’t use basic social graces like “hello”, “thank you” and “good bye”. Local leaders adopted the decree after a terse taxpayer disrespected a civil servant in 2011.
- It is legal to marry a dead person
This law stems back to when a dam burst in 1959 and killed 420 people in southern France. A pregnant woman who lost her fiancé was so upset that former President Charles de Gaulle penned a law allowing them to be married. However, the authorities require proof the couple planned to marry before one of them died.
- Everyone must have a bail of hay at home
In case the French king passes with his horse. Given there are no longer French kings and the current president does not travel by horse, this old law is pretty defunct. But it’s always good to know these things.
- French law allows you to be divorced if you smoke too much or are too interested in football
France’s legal code obliges spouses to be faithful and if they aren’t it is grounds for divorce. However, infidelity can also be “intellectual” as well as physical, meaning excessive smoking, playing too much football, spending too much time with the local bishop and phone sex, can all be grounds for divorce.
Source: The Local. France’s news in English (27 October 2016).