More bizarre laws for your titillation

Everyone surely knows by now that in New York, a person may not walk around on Sundays with an ice cream cone in his/her pocket. It's common knowledge that roosters may not crow within city limits in Ontario, and that detonating a nuclear device in Chico, CA carries with it the stern punishment of a $500 fine. And surely we are all aware that Scottish law prohibits being drunk in charge of a cow.

It's true, I'm afraid - the well-trodden list of strange laws has well and truly done the rounds. Funny the first time, by now they are the preserve of the strange man in the woolly hat who recites them at passers-by in between prophesying Armageddon and dispensing the Weekly World News. Even when a law suddenly gains new relevance, as in the New York City ordinance that jumping from a building is punishable by death, the time is not always right to exploit its comic potential.

But there may be life in the topic yet. (If there isn't, I'm about to waste half an hour spouting drivel at you all as per usual.) What we need is an update. People are no less strange than they've ever been. What ordinances have sneaked into being in the last year or so? Surely there are more of these gems being churned out by the second?

Of course there are.

Our natural starting point must be September the eleventh, the media version of the Big Bang. The world changed, they say. And so did the laws. In New York, carrying a boxcutter within or near JFK airport now carries a stiffer potential penalty than sexual harassment, mugging and drunk-driving. In Las Vegas, the replica New York skyline cannot be altered without first informing the Nevada state governor of your ethnicity and religion. Proposals for surface-to-air missile batteries at either end of the Golden Gate bridge were recently given a firm stamp of approval by the San Francisco Police department, while it is now officially illegal to destroy the World Trade Centre whilst in Georgia.

Moving on, Floridans had better watch their voting technique - failure to master the state's eclectic electoral technology requires that the offender attend a week-long residential course on the correct way to "punch a chad". A new spin has been put on this idea in Macedonia, where campaigning politicians have to pass a military marksmanship test before firing automatic weaponry into the air. Syria, however, wins the award for most comprehensive election-related legislation; last week's ruling that failure to object publicly to poll-rigging is an imprisonable offence technically incarcerates the entire country.

It gets worse. The Supreme Court of El Salvador has given the Pacific Ocean twenty-eight days to appear in court, charged with the murders of two fishermen. Three men in Oklahoma City were arrested, tried and jailed for three years despite no-one, least of all the judge, having any idea why they were there. Certain much-prized French mushroom species are now required by law to grow by 150% during the period from February 3rd to April 9th. Copies of the Koran dating from before 1979 are legally entitled to hold government positions in Pakistan.

The EU has its own unique genius in such matters. Not content with outlawing bent bananas in the mid-1990s, a set range of shades of purple has been defined for EU-produced radishes, and exported wine cannot, strictly speaking, be drunk in the country to which it is exported. Furthermore, the lengthy roll of languages into which all official EU documents must be translated now includes, bafflingly, Lepontic, Celtiberian and Galatian - none of which has been spoken for almost two thousand years.

Lastly, I must confess that even reading this article is illegal in Denver, Colorado. After the initial craze for bizarre laws, records offices were so overwhelmed by hordes of researchers eager to find more amusing legislation that possession of lists like this was banned outright.

What do you think, did we get it right? Comment here...