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...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!