A driver who told a parking attendant “You are nobody!” has felt the weight of Italy’s legal system, which ruled the seemingly innocuous words constituted slander — and fined him heavily.

The tiff over a parking space led to Giulio C. being fined 300 euros ($370) plus 500 euros legal costs when a court in the northeast city of Trieste turned down his appeal.

The court ruled the phrase ‘you are nobody’ “means precisely ‘you are a nonentity’ and to state that a person is a nonentity is certainly offensive because it is damaging to the dignity of a person.”

The decision led celebrated Corriere della Sera commentator Beppe Severgnini to recall in his column on Friday that this was not the first time Italian appeal courts had deliberated on the definition of slander.

Indeed, over the years a sort of “guide to legitimate offence” has been formulated and Severgnini, quoting the courts, gave a few of the more common examples.

“Ball-breaker” is not slander because although “an undoubtedly rude expression it is now in common usage.”

“I’ll kick your arse” also passes muster because this is a “robust reaction which should be understood in a figurative way.”

More here.