Torts: The High Price of Silent Insults

Italian is one language in which a deaf-mute is not completely lost. Every facial tic, every finger flick, means something. A thumb jabbed at the mouth: "Waiter, bring some wine." A semi-rotating hand with thumb and forefinger up: "No can do." One raised finger: "Probably." Palm open: "Probably not." Tapping the center of the forehead: "Do you think I'm stupid?" Extended fingers slowly rubbing the underchin: "I couldn't care less."

Not surprisingly, a language so silently eloquent teems with insulting gestures and yowls for legal relief. Indeed, the Italian penal code provides up to six months' imprisonment for "whosoever offends...

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