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Learn legal English vocabulary – 7 useful words!

What dumb (silly) laws are there in your country? In the USA, there are lots of really unusual ones. Some of them were written many years ago, but they’re still enforceable – which means the police could arrest you for them.

In this lesson, we’re going to look at a few of these dumb laws from the state of Wyoming. This will help you learn legal English vocabulary, and it’ll improve your listening skills. Ready? OK, let’s go!


Here are some useful words that appear in the text. The first 7 are legal English words. This will help prepare you for the listening activity.

1. A fine

Money you must pay to the state if you commit a crime.

2. Illegal

If something is “illegal”, you could go to prison if you do it.

3. Under the influence

If you’re “under the influence (of alcohol)”, you have been drinking and it has affected you. If the police stop you for DUI it means you’ve been “Driving Under the Influence” – driving while you’re drunk, which is a serious offence.

4. A permit

A legal document that says you can do something – that you have special permission to do it.

5.Forbidden / prohibited

If something is “forbidden” or “prohibited”, you can’t do it.

6.Go to jail

If someone “goes to jail”, they go to prison.

7.A firearm

A gun, rifle, etc.

A junk dealer

A person who sells old or second-hand goods.

A business transaction

The act of buying or selling something as part of a business deal.

To spit

To force liquid out of your mouth.


If someone is “intoxicated”, they’ve drunk too much alcohol.

A mine

A tunnel in the ground. It is built to find diamonds, charcoal, gold, etc.

A fence

A barrier between two areas of land, often made of wood or wire.


A general word for pictures, drawings, photographs, etc. used for decoration in a house
or a building.

2 Listening activity

1 Listening 1

You’re going to listen to some unusual laws from the USA. Listen once. Which law is the most ridiculous? Why?

PS It’s important to listen once without stopping. While doing this, you should try to understand as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything – just try to get the gist of what they say (a general understanding of it). It’s very important that you try to do this. It’ll really help with your listening skills.


2 Listening 2

Now, listen again. This time you can stop the audio and play it again as many times as you like. Then, answer the questions. [answers below]
1. Where is it illegal to spit?
2. What can’t you do while fishing?
3. When can’t citizens in Cheyenne take a shower?
4. Where can’t you be intoxicated?
5. What can’t you take a photo of from January to April without a permit?
6. What must all new buildings with construction costs over $100,000 have?

3 Listening 3

Now listen to the audio and read the script (see below) at the same time. This is great for your listening skills!

4 Speaking

Now choose 4 of the dumb laws. Make notes and try to remember as much of the language as you can. Then, when you’re ready, tell a friend or colleague about the laws. Only look at your notes – don’t read it out word for word. This is great for your speaking skills, and it’ll really help you remember the new words!

Audio script


Here are some more crazy laws from the US. (US English spelling)
This month: Wyoming.
• It is illegal to spit on or near a school.
• Using a firearm while fishing is strictly forbidden.
• Skiing under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.
• Citizens in Cheyenne may not take showers on Wednesdays.
• It is illegal for women to stand within five feet of a bar while drinking.
• Junk dealers may not make any business transactions with drunk persons.
• If someone is intoxicated in a mine, he or she could go to jail for up to a year.
• You may not take a picture of a rabbit from January to April without an official permit.
• It is illegal to wear a hat that obstructs people’s view in a public theater or place of entertainment.
• Any person who fails to close a fence is subject to a fine of up to seven hundred and fifty dollars.
• All new buildings that cost over $100,000 to build must have 1% of funds spent on artwork for the building.


Listening 2

1. Where is it illegal to spit? Near a school
2. What can’t you do while fishing? Use a firearm
3. When can’t citizens in Cheyenne take a shower? On Wednesdays
4. Where can’t you be intoxicated? In a mine
5. What can’t you take a photo of from January to April without a permit? A rabbit
6. What must all new buildings that cost over $100,000 to build have? Artwork

For more crazy laws and a good amount of real English then check out Learn Hot English magazine


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