Using a seemingly innocent slang word can be punishable with a jail term, the Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled.
"Lan," often used as an exclamation either among intimate friends or while venting anger at someone, is apparently an insult according to the country's highest court.
Atilla A. was arguing with a policeman when he uttered the word. He had parked his car in the parking lot of a police station in the capital Ankara when a policeman warned him to park it elsewhere. He did as he was told but the policeman approached him again as he entered the police station and questioned why he was visiting the place. Angered over questioning, the defendant reportedly told police, "It is none of your business, lan!" The policeman filed a lawsuit claiming he was insulted and a local court asked for Atilla A.'s imprisonment for three years on charges of insult.
The word was previously a subject of debate over its interpretation as an insult and the top court usually interpreted it simply as a rude word and overturned the lower courts' rulings deeming it as an insult. The latest verdict by the Supreme Court of Appeals is viewed as a landmark as it is first of its kind in such a case.
The Chief Prosecutor's Office at Court of Appeals told the court that the word "hurt the dignity" of the plaintiff and if "lan" is not treated as an insult, it would "make it difficult for public order to be maintained" as defendants in similar cases would get away with insulting the police and other public officials.
Atilla A. was initially sentenced to one year in jail by a court in Ankara but it was commuted to a fine of TL 7,000 ($2,500). The Court of Appeals ordered him to pay the fine and the lower courts to treat "lan" as a word of insult.
Lan, alternatively spelled as ulan, commonly means "mate" and has widespread usage in Turkey. The etymological origin of the word is disputed. Some experts claim it was derived from l'ane (French word for donkey) especially for its use as an exclamation of anger. Others claim it is derived from oğlan, an outdated word still used as a form of address in rural parts of Turkey that means "boy."