The Italian Almanac

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Heaven Can Wait

Italy's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a penalty against a Dominican friar who told police not to "break my balls". The friar, identified as Giordano G., was convicted last year of insulting officers after they entered his drug rehab community for a night-time check. Friar Giordano appealed against the March 2006 sentence, pleading with the appeals judges that his words "had no offensive content because the phrase in question has become such a common expletive as to render it innocuous".

The judges took a different view, upholding the cleric's earlier conviction for abusing public servants. Wednesday's sentence clashed with a recent widely publicised ruling from the precedent-setting organ, which pronounced this summer that the V-word - Italy's equivalent of the F-word - was no longer to be considered an insult because it was now so commonly used.