Every year, thousands of German drivers learn the hard way that its just not OK to call someone a dumb pig. The insult risks a fine of between 500 and 2,000 euros.
Call someone an alte sau or old sow the highest level of verbal abuse and the fine is even stiffer: 2,500 euros. On the other end of the scale are tamer insults like silly goose or stupid cow. German authorities consider these to be less serious than pig-based affronts, and fines only cost around 300 euros.
Those who research cursing and swearing, called maledictologists, tend to see outbursts of this type as a verbal way of letting off steam and reducing stress. British researchers at Keele University conducted experiments in which test subjects were asked to immerse their hands in ice water and insult the researchers all they wanted while so doing.
"Hurling insults caused the release of endorphins that dulled the pain, said project head Richard Stephens. Swearing can be good not only for the soul but for the body as well. In other words, yelling "stupid cow is the equivalent of taking a verbal painkiller.
In Germany, however, getting caught doing this is only going to land you in hot water. And verbal insults are not the only ones German laws take umbrage with insulting gestures prompts fines as well. Caught suggesting that someone is crazy by putting a finger to your head will cost a sliding percentage of monthly income. If this works out to 1,500 euros net per month, for example, then das Zeigen des Vogels can cost anywhere between 1000 and 1500 euros.
Giving somebody the Stinkefinger -- as in raising the middle finger -- is considered a higher-grade insult than the Vogel; the fine for that is also based on income, and can really break the bank.
Read the full article in German by Silvia Meixner
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