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EDITORIAL – Can’t put your name on a licence plate? Get over it

Lorne Grabher with cancelled licence plate. (Facebook)

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

NAMES ARE important. We’re all blessed — or stuck — with the names we came with when we were born into this world.

Except in Hollywood, few of us change them if we don’t like them. Our DNA is attached to our names, our identity, our ancestral heritage. In short, we are what we’re named.

So, we live with that, good and bad. If your last name is Hooker, or Crapper, or Butt, Dikshit, or it happens to coincide with various bodily parts and functions — well, you live life with a burden. If you’re like the boy named Sue in the Johnnie Cash song, it makes you stronger.

If you have a name like Rothenburger, you learn to live with nicknames like Rottenhamburger in school.

Lorne Grabher is proud of his name, proud enough to want it on his licence plate. The province of Nova Scotia begs to differ. The government cancelled his vanity plate on the grounds that the public might view it as being insulting to women.

While I recognize this plate was issued as your last name, the public cannot be expected to know this and can misinterpret it as a socially unacceptable slogan.

Provincial Motor Vehicles Branches typically have policies that reject offensive wording on plates, and that makes sense. Plates like RU 18 YET, UP YOURS and YAY 911, and worse have slipped through in other jurisdictions.

Few would argue that allowing such plates is in the public interest. But when someone’s last name happens to be a duplication of an offensive word or slogan, the situation isn’t nearly so clear.

Mr. Grabher can’t help it if he has a name that isn’t everybody’s idea of an appropriate licence plate. His case has been taken up by media around the world, because media like these kinds of stories. There’s a sense of indignation that he can’t put his name on his licence plate, and that the bureaucy in Nova Scotia is over-reacting.

As it happens, Grabher is a pretty common last name, spread throughout Europe and North America. I looked it up. It’s a perfectly honorable name. But it doesn’t need to be on a licence plate.

For that matter, nobody’s name needs to be on a licence plate. The world will survive without people’s names on licence plates. So it’s unfortunate that, when placed on a licence plate, Lorne Grabher’s last name can be taken the wrong way, but that’s life.

He should recognize the problem, and put a regular over-the-counter licence plate on his car like most of the rest of us. Or maybe see if LORNE is available.

mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (4715 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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