From Rule 42 to Rule 51 in Germany

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. ALL PERSONS MORE THAN A MILE HIGH TO LEAVE THE COURT.’ Everybody looked at Alice.
‘I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
‘Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, chapter XII

In the 1952 German dubbed version of Disney’s 1951 Alice movie, “Rule 42” had been replaced by “Paragraph 51”. Nobody can really know what “42” stands for, but in Germany “he has the article 51” (“Er hat den Paragraph 51“) meant “He is mad”. It was until the year 1975 that the article 51 of the German penal code provided the legal base for insanity defense.

Lewis Carroll’s “Rule 42” might not have been plain nonsense.

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