Wednesday 11 August 2004


Anthony Wells is intrigued by the Royal Mail's Dickensian language.

The best thing on there though is that the Royal Mail Group plc will not accept a letter that contains "Filth". You and I may well assume it means faeces, but the Royal Mail does not elucidate. No "Filth" and that's final.

Earlier this year, I temped for the Royal Mail for a couple of months. It was utterly dreadful, but that's a different story. In my training class, we did actually ask what "filth" is. Our trainer was not entirely sure. He initialy thought it was pornography, but that's elsewhere on the list ("Indecent, obscene or offensive material"). I remember we had quite a long discussion about it, the upshot of which was that no-one in the organisation is entirely sure what filth is, but they are positive that it must be kept out of the mail.

(Pornography is actually specified on the list we used in-house, though not on the public list Anthony links to. More intrigue. Maybe the rules have changed in the last few months.)

(Oh, and the heading of the Royal Mail's list is "Things we can't carry and why". But it's actually just a list of things they won't carry — no reasons why are given. That's pretty typical of the Royal Mail, I have to say.)

Anyway, the really good stuff is the international prohibitions. Each country has its own list of banned items. (You can spot the dictatorships a mile off: they all have some crap in there about "items critical of the government" or "literature liable to cause civil unrest". Funny how so many of these places are named "The Democratic Republic of". Apart from Australia, who inexplicably ban "seditious" literature. Probably a hangover from Ned Kelly's day.)

Can't find a reference for it, but I remember that you can't send bees to Mexico.

You can't send horror comics into the UK, apparently.

You can't send shorthand to Vietnam.

You can't send underwear to Peru.

You can't send police whistles to Nicaragua.

You can't send adverts for medicine for venereal disease to Jordan.

You can't send handkerchiefs to Italy. (Cue hilarious joke about Italian hygiene.)

You can't send sand to Israel. Lucky they nipped that one in the bud.

You can send a complete deck of playing cards to Germany, but you can't send the individual cards.

You can't send musical birthday cards to Cuba. So Castro's not all bad.

And you can't send Japanese shaving brushes to Tanzania.

What gets me about them is that they're so specific. One of our beloved MPs drafted a law regarding exactly which types of comic Her Majesty's subjects could be allowed to receive through the international mail, and, presumably, Parliament spent time debating it. Must have been a slow year. Politicians in Paraguay must have had quite a rigorous debate over their ban on the postal import of socks, as a compromise seems to have been struck, and socks made of jersey are allowed in. Did Japan once have a shaving-brush trade war with Tanzania?

And pretty much everywhere bans pornography in the mail. Why?

Those crafty Kuwaitis have clearly decided to preempt any legal niggling over what exactly is and isn't pornography by banning "Magazines or other printed matter containing illustrations of nude or partly nude human figures." That should cover every eventuality. Apart from people wearing skin-tight latex and slapping each other.

Now, have I mentioned pornography enough times to get some visitors?


Gary said...

"Now, have I mentioned pornography enough times to get some visitors?"

I abandoned a blog post titled "Lindsay Lohan's breasts" for fear of a Google-led invasion. It was actually a highbrow post. No, really. And thanks to a sarcastic comment about horse porn on the Kasino site somewhere, we regularly get a worrying number of visitors using exactly those terms in search engines.

Anyway, here's a list of dumb laws from around the world.

Squander Two said...

You abandoned a post for fear of getting too many readers? Weirdo.

Jonah Goldberg is still the top two results on Google for "lesbian love goats":


Gary said...

Having readers would compromise my unique artistic vision ;-)