Burpham Winter Lectures

The final Burpham Winter Lecture saw Andrew Plumridge, who also kicked off the postponed lectures with his ‘Gargoyles, Grotesques and Hunkypunks’, acquaint us with some very strange laws from around the world.

It seems that many quirky laws were put in place to defend monarchs from ridicule. Did you know that pigs in France may not be named Napoleon? And yet… George Orwell called his authoritarian pig in Animal Farm by this very name. 

Some laws defy reality. For example, you cannot be termed ‘drunk’ if you attend the Oktober Fest in Munich, but you can be fined for reciting poetry whilst downhill skiiing in Switzerland. In Portugal it is illegal to urinate in the sea – fair enough! – but how on earth do the police enforce that rule?

Many laws have a basis in good sense.  On paper, the city of Rome can fine a dog-owner up to 600 Euros for failing to walk the dog each day. And in Ohio, it is illegal to inebriate a fish. On reflection, these laws are humane if odd.

The Swiss have, in the past, been quite prudish in civil law. For example, people are forbidden from hiking naked there. The Swiss also banned Winnie the Pooh for his immodest lack of clothing, but it is only fair to mention that the Finns banned Donald Duck for the same reason. 

By common acclaim, our favourite example was a law in Michigan which makes it illegal to throw an octopus onto the ice. It would be nice to say that this is an outdated practice, but octopus-chucking is still rife. Police are often called out but have trouble landing a conviction. In the 1950s they adopted a policy of ‘turning a blind eye’.

The Burpham Winter Lectures return in January 2023 when we will be circling back to Medieval Sex and Marriage, English Pyramids and Burpham Surnames among other topics. Keep your Fridays free!