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Hey Pig! Germany's Steep Fines For Animal Insults ('Stinkefingers' Ain't Cheap Either)

Humans often hurl animal-based insults at each other. But in Germany, crass language can be costly, especially if you call someone an “alte sau.” Silly goose, not so much.

Germany's language police prefer cows to pigs
Germany's language police prefer cows to pigs

Every year, thousands of German drivers learn the hard way that it's 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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Will Winter Crack The Western Alliance In Ukraine?

Kyiv's troops are facing bitter cold and snow on the frontline, but the coming season also poses longer term political questions for Ukraine's allies. It may be now or never.

Ukraine soldier in winer firing a large canon with snow falling

Ukraine soldier firing a large cannon in winter.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Weather is a weapon of war. And one place where that’s undoubtedly true right now is Ukraine. A record cold wave has gripped the country in recent days, with violent winds in the south that have cut off electricity of areas under both Russian and Ukrainian control. It's a nightmare for troops on the frontline, and survival itself is at stake, with supplies and movement cut off.

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This is the reality of winter warfare in this part of Europe, and important in both tactical and strategic terms. What Ukraine fears most in these circumstances are Russian missile or drone attacks on energy infrastructures, designed to plunge civilian populations into cold and darkness.

The Ukrainian General Staff took advantage of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to Kyiv to ask the West to provide as many air defense systems as possible to protect these vital infrastructures. According to Kyiv, 90% of Russian missile launches are intercepted; but Ukraine claims that Moscow has received new weapon deliveries from North Korea and Iran, and has large amounts of stocks to strike Ukraine in the coming weeks.

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