On Your P (Personalised) Plates


You definitely see some sights when you’re out driving.

On life’s highways the bold and the bizarre come into view on many an occasion.

Varied coloured cocoons each filled with people hermetically sealed within their own worlds, moving at speed to the rhythm of green lightyellow lightred light – for starters.

There I was stuck in traffic, two lines of steel and tire, each capable of over 160 kilometres per hour and each averaging about five in their stop-start fashion. My viewing options were limited so I chose what most others would do in this situation… to gaze zombie-like at the car in front of me. This turned out to be a not entirely wasted experience. In a vision of loveliness sullied only by the grey mist exhaust coming from its tailpipe sat the sleek chrome rear of a mustard yellow Nissan GT-R sports car.

That type of auto-eye-candy under any normal circumstance would have been satisfying enough but this particular sleek unit of hot metal came with a bonus: a personalised number plate that read SIR YANG”. (To supply added context to this story, the location for my stuck-in-traffic experience was the Brisbane suburb of Sunnybank which is recognised as having a higher than average Asian population).

With time on my side and not going anywhere fast I tossed over in my mind exactly why that particular combination of words seemed so.. so.. unique (not to mention hilarious, at least to me). The best I could come up with was the idea that mixing the most English of sounding royal titles ‘Sir’ with the quintessentially Asian sounding surname (or is that first name?) of ‘Yang’ results in a most unlikely blending of European and what used to go by the name of ‘Oriental’ flavours one could possibly imagine.


Probably the most out-there personalized plate I’ve seen on a car on the road was one that simply read ANTS (to be honest I can’t recall if it was spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’) Make of that what you will.

Naturally that’s nothing compared to the likes of the wanton weirdness you can find online –


 And they’re just the G-rated ones!

In the minds of some, there isn’t an item that screams ’empty status symbol’ more than the personalised number plate, or ‘vanity plate’, as they are still referred to in some circles. So why do people sometimes mentally roll their eyes when they see another driver’s attempt at being funny or what they may interpret as a gaudy ‘look at me’ gesture?

In part, it’s a legacy of the fact that personalised plates were born in the eighties, a decade when bankers’ greed had poisoned the well of public opinion against conspicuous displays of wealth. Getting a personalised plate was seen as something that was done by those with more money than sense, a rather gauche, loadsamoney thing to do.

But three decades on, the general wealth of the middle class has risen exponentially and personalised number plates, much like tattoos or piercings, are now widely considered simply a fun thing to do ‘because you can’.


An early adopter – Lady Penelope from the 1960’s tv series ‘THE THUNDERBIRDS’.


Ps. Your bonus read this week is the incredible story of the car that carried Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the day he was assassinated in June of 1914 (an event that triggered a series of events which lead to the outbreak of World War 1) and the eerie significance of the number plate of that motor vehicle.

It’s helpful if you keep in mind when reading this article that the peace treaty that ended World War One was signed on the 11th of Novemember 1918.






13 thoughts on “On Your P (Personalised) Plates

  1. China I can’t be certain of but I do know they have personalized number plates in The United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hong Kong, Austria, Latvia and Belgium (and naturally enough the U.S, Canada and England).


  2. It was fascinating to learn about the Armistice Plates the unfortunate Archduke used on his limo.
    For me Glen ,one of the funniest Seinfeld episodes was Kramer using the Assman plates ,when his plates were mixed up with a proctologists.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Like you Glen, I’ve had many a raised eyebrow and straight out laughs at the number plates – don’t know how someone can advertise INSANE e.g. for all the world to see – interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m gonna go out on a limb (or should that be ‘offramp’?) and suggest that anyone who drives around in a car sporting a number plate that reads INSANE should have that license plate snapped in half before their eyes. Slowly.


  5. Yet another stellar read Glen. Your extensive vocabulary always impressed me: you seem to so effortlessly be able to pull out exactly the right words from your very deep English language ‘pockets’ with the result being such magically lyrical prose. I learn a lot from you and your writing – thank you. Oh and the subject matter is always on point too! Personalised plates huh, who’d have them?
    (Mine’s SHN79) 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You had me in suspense for a minute there Shannon with that line about – “you seem to so effortlessly be able to pull out exactly the right words from your …..”
    I was wondering what you were about to say! (Tee hee)
    I believe I’m getting the ‘sig’ (ok, significance) of that.
    Pretty obvious really…
    SHE’S HOT NOW (and 79 people agree)
    or if it’s an ‘adult’ plate – SEXY HOT NAUGHTY (somehow the number’s off by 10 though)
    It’s got to be one of those, otherwise I’m left with SERIOUS HORN NOISEMAKER (at 79 decibels) and surely nobody wants to be one of those!
    Or it might just be three letters from your first name + your birth year.
    Don’t think it’s that.


  7. I agree with Shannon! Your prose is hilarious and informative, with all the right dramatic beats. Makes for a fun, easy read. I have to check out the assassination story still–sounds interesting.
    Meanwhile, that cartoon made my day of the lady with the plates that say: OMG WTF
    Lol ! ! !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thankyou thankyou thankyou Stacey.

    I’ve toyed before with the idea of getting a personalised number plate to advertise SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK – something like SWS 101 – but then I thought “Hang on, would anyone know what that was actually supposed to mean?”

    Even the number plate SCENIC would just have people possibly believing I’m some sort of anti-GPS technology absteiner who prefers taking the scenic route. I don’t know.

    One of the best number plates I’ve seen which I didn’t mention in that article was OGROWUP. Somehow, that statement kind of sums up at least the cynical component of my feelings around vanity plates.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Speaking of “baby on board” stickers–sometimes they’re, like, the absolute WORST, most careless drivers. I’m like, “Is the baby still on board? Or is that an old sticker–I HOPE.”

    Liked by 1 person

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