Jewish World Review July 8, 2002 / 28 Tamuz, 5762

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Americans retain right to fork tongues | If you are concerned that the civil liberties we hold most dear will be trampled upon in the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11, fear not.

Oh, sure, you might be detained by authorities for long periods of time without actually being charged with a crime, and you are no longer allowed to carry dangerous weapons such as toothbrushes and fingernail clippers aboard an airplane, and if your complexion is any darker than, say, Sinead O'Connor's, you might be the victim of racial profiling, but the important thing is that, in Michigan at least, it is still OK to get your tongue split.

In a brave show of support for people who like to mutilate themselves, the Michigan House of Representatives recently voted down, by a margin of 53-43, a bill that would have prohibited people from getting their tongue surgically forked like a snake's.

"We're talking about a bill that is reaching into a personal decision," said Rep. David Woodward (D-Royal Oak). "If you want to split your tongue -- and I don't know why you would want to -- why is the state of Michigan saying you can't?"

While Rep. Woodward's words may not be right up there with Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death," Thomas Paine's "these are the times that try men's souls" or even Little Richard's "wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom," they surely resonate with that percentage of the Michigan population that would gladly risk infection, nerve damage and permanent speech impediment for the opportunity to look like a pierced, heavily tattooed version of a garter snake.

Personally, I have no problem with a person getting his or her tongue split as long as our state legislators do not take away my right to run away from that person as fast as possible while waving my hands over my head and screaming, "We've been invaded by lizard people! We've been invaded by lizard people! Resistance is futile! Surrender now or be assimilated!" (Actually, that's an awful lot of words for me to be screaming while running away from someone with a forked tongue. My actual utterance would probably be something far more terse, like simply "Oof!")

Still on the subject of civil liberties and still on the subject of loud noises (this is what we professional writers call a "transition"), a Norwegian court has ruled that it is legal for possibly inebriated people with loose false teeth to bark in public.

Trond (literally: he who bays at the moon) Hansen, 57, was walking home from a dinner party in downtown Oslo with two of his children in early May. Along the way the children began quarreling and the younger one started to cry. At this point, Hansen did what any good father would do in a similar situation: He began barking.

The Associated Press report does not say what effect Hansen's barking had on his children, whether they ceased crying or began crying harder. But a neighbor heard the sound and, fearing that a dog was mauling a child, called police. Hansen was subsequently arrested for disturbing the peace, public drunkenness, child neglect and doing a very bad impersonation of a German shepherd. (That last part is not true. At least I don't think it's true.)

Anyway, a judge threw out the case after Hansen informed him that he was not drunk at the time but merely suffering from loose dentures. The pros and cons of his barking abilities were never discussed.

Since we are committed to happy endings these days, we will assume that Hansen's children solved their disagreement without resorting to animal sounds and that Hansen, his false teeth clicking merrily, is out there on the streets of Oslo performing the spaghetti scene from "Lady and the Tramp."

And if there are any people with split tongues wandering around out there, they have the decency to leave him alone.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


07/01/02 These laws were made to be broken
06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune