The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 March 2006

Aggravated mopery

"Mopery," said H. Allen Smith in Low Man on a Totem Pole, is the "old English misdemeanor of exposing one's self in front of a blind man on a public highway."

The Word Detective once was threatened with a more contemporary version:

I ... was threatened with arrest for "mopery" back in 1970 by a gendarme in the employ of the Columbus, Ohio police department. As I knew I was guilty of no crime beyond a bad attitude and a subversive haircut, I presumed he was joking and simply walked away. But several days later I heard that a friend had actually been arrested, booked and jailed for "mopery," so I guess the relevant law really existed on the books (and, knowing Columbus, I'd guess that it probably still does).

The Detective's interpretation:

"Mopery," at least in Columbus, Ohio, consists of "walking down the street with no clear destination or purpose." "Mopery" is thus essentially "loitering while walking," and, like laws against loitering and vagrancy, functions as a sort of legal wildcard, a one-size-fits-all charge that can easily be applied to annoying people by irritable authorities.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, reports Triticale, has "approved an ordinance calling for fines against persons who 'loiter in a menacing fashion'." I wonder if this is like Oklahoma City's "aggressive panhandling" minus the actual request for spare change.

Posted at 6:17 AM to Almost Yogurt

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, reports Triticale, has "approved an ordinance calling for fines against persons who 'loiter in a menacing fashion'."

Boris Karloff would've never got out of jail.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:13 AM on 1 March 2006

Or, in its more serious form, "mopery with intent to loiter"

Posted by: Ed Flinn at 1:18 PM on 1 March 2006

Remind me to go tear the tags off the mattresses.

Posted by: CGHill at 3:07 PM on 1 March 2006

Kinda like "vagrancy" ... The premise is these laws are made to keep the riffraff moving. But just like the Patriot Act (the ultimate "we'll tell you what it means later" law) it can have unintended results. My uncle who had just returned from the Pacific in WW2 with 2 Purple Hearts and the Silver Star was rolled in California as he sojourned home to Kansas from L.A.. Sans cash he soon found himself riding the rails and bumming his way home. A little stop in a small town in California and he soon found himself arrested for vagrancy and picking fruit for 30 days ... a great majority of his fellow pickers were recently discharged vets as well. Their crime was to fall into the local fruit growers version of a "speed trap"...they were short of pickers and realized they had a steady stream of short on cash fellas floating through. He did his 30 days and got the hell outta California.

Posted by: ron at 7:50 AM on 2 March 2006