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License plate speaks for itself!


I first spotted this car license plate sitting behind it at the lights one day, and it has crossed my path a few times since then.

If the guy who drives it is an English teacher or grammarian with a wicked sense of humour then more power to him - it certainly is a lesson in itself.

Does he think it is an acceptable alternative to the correct indefinite article; or is he really trying to play on it being an example that proves his point?  He is an idiot?! 

I realise that our New Zealand personalised plates only allow 6 place-holders; and scarcity seemingly necessitates creativity with spelling, but I couldn't live with this myself.

If it can't be spelled correctly it oughtn't be used.

There is more to this argument though than the bastardisation of the English language.

Is justice being served as a result?

What exactly do I mean?

I don't know what the statistics are, but unless the Police supercomputer works like a code cracker, trawling through the endless permutations of a number plate to find all the possible matches, then the only thing they have to go on in the case of an incident report is what someone remembers.

It has long been proven that human beings are able to unscramble letters in a word if the first and last letter are in order, as we glean things from the context around them.

Presently the standard car license plate contains 3 letters then 3 numbers.  We expect that.  That is part of the context on a normal plate.

With the random placement of 6 letters or numbers in any position; and the substitution in personalised license plates of numbers for letters and letter sequences we destroy context.  Numbers do not belong in our alphabet.  There is also little context, other than perhaps if you remember the colour or make of the vehicle (and even then it depends on the search capabilities of the Police computer to use this extra information as a primary term).

Have you considered how many prosecutions could not be made because a personalised plate contained a variant spelling, let alone an obscured plate?

How weird it is that people are paying a grand price for buying an error.


Syntax Schmintax is an attempt to document, and make myself more aware of, the grammatical errors being made in advertising and marketing by organisations who in the main employ professional sign-writers and printers.  It is by no means an authoritative reference, and is only my personal opinion.  Feel free to chime in and comment, especially if you are one who has an English honours degree (which I don't)!