If you’re not sure who to turn to for advice and guidance about what is and isn’t in poor taste it appears you now need to look no further than the DVLA and the private registration plates it allows and issues. Ever since the DVLA started issuing private plates using all the available combinations from current and past systems, people have been incredibly creative in coming up with combinations that mean or say something.
Naturally, some of the words and phrases that can be made would be totally unacceptable in civil society and have rightly been denied by the DVLA. Some have even slipped through the net from time to time and made it into the public domain, only to be banned by the DVLA at a later date when it realised that it failed to spot these naughty or downright offensive plates before they were issued.
Where is the line to be drawn?
While almost everyone would agree that some potential combinations on private registration plates would be completely unacceptable, this inevitably creates a problem of where the line is drawn and who decides what falls on one side of the line or the other.
There’s a lot of debate in the world these days about what is and what isn’t ‘acceptable,’ what should and shouldn’t be allowed, and especially about who decides all this. It’s easy to accuse governments and big tech of going too far and overstepping the mark in deciding what and what isn’t acceptable or in good taste, but the DVLA is one organisation that is now clearly deciding what does and doesn’t constitute ‘poor taste.’
What one person thinks is in poor taste may be completely acceptable to a lot of other people, and what about some words that can potentially mean more than one thing? It’s certainly not an easy job deciding what is and isn’t acceptable, and there’s no chance whatsoever that the DVLA or anyone else could ever get it 100% correct all of the time. However, with the arrival of the 21 and 71 registration numbers in 2021, some combinations are not being allowed that really do bring into question whether or not the DVLA is going too far as the arbiter of good taste.
Numbers banned in 2021
It would probably be fair to assume that most of the available number and letter combinations from previous numbering systems that could be considered questionable have probably been weeded out by now. However, as every new registration plate date designation comes around it brings up new possibilities that have not been available before, and new events and trends also make already-available combinations from previous systems suddenly beyond the pale.
In 2021 we have the new registration numbers be we have also be consumed by the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year now, and that has thrown up double trouble for the good folks down at the DVLA. Not only do 21 and 71 bring about a whole new set of combinations, but coronavirus and associated words could also prove rich picking for those looking for new private plates that people might want.
However, as far as the DVLA is concerned, anything related to the pandemic appears to be considered as being in ‘poor taste’ and therefore not allowed. Among the new 21 plate combinations that could have been snapped up but have had a stop put on them by the DVLA are the likes of CO21 ONA, CO21 VID and CO21 RNA.
Of course, if these 21 plates are not to be allowed then the likes of COV 11D and COV 111D from previous numbering systems are also off the agenda. But this really does beg the question of whether these plates are even in the same ballpark as some of the plates the DVLA has rightly banned in the past, and what about some of the double meanings that could be at play here?
Genuinely poor taste registration numbers
We can all probably agree that certain numbers shouldn’t be allowed as they’re pretty obviously unacceptable to most decent people. After all, genuinely offence registration numbers are even banned in the USA where the right to free speech is enshrined in law under the constitution.
Here in the UK, some years are worse than others for bringing up possibilities, and in 2015 the ’15’ and ’61’ numbers made particularly rich pickings for especially offensive plates. You don’t have to be some sort of prude to understand that it would be acceptable to allow vehicles to drive around with private plates on them such as P15 OFF, SH15 TTY, VA61 ANA and UP15 BUM, do you?
The thing is though, are those numbers that are seen as related to the pandemic in any way offensive to anyone?
Blurred lines and double meanings
Three more ’21’ plate numbers that have rightly been censored and therefore not allowed to be issued are BA21 STD, LE21 ZZA and MU21 DER, but is it right that numbers like EU21 BAD, EU21 OFF, EU21 OUT, EU21 SHT and EU21 GON should be banned in fear of offending extremists on the losing side of a legally held national referendum?
Just out of naughtiness, I did a quick search online and found that numbers such as EU21 EUR and EU21 LOV are both available, so does the DVLA think that it’s only unacceptable to offend one side of a political divide?
And what about double meanings? The registration number GB21 EDL is not being issued because EDL are the initials of the far-right English Defence League, and combining its initials with the GB regional designation would supposedly be unacceptable or in poor taste. However, EDL is also the name of a global producer of sustainable, distributed energy and EDL Capital AG is a Swiss-based alternative asset management firm.
Likewise, Corona is a brand of beer as well as the shortened name as a virus, so why shouldn’t someone who has a particular liking for that brand of beer or someone associated with the brand professionally not be allowed to have it on their number plate?
It’s obviously not easy for the DVLA or anyone else to stay on the right side of what is and isn’t poor taste, especially at a time when everything is now apparently offensive to someone or another. Even so, it will be interesting to see how this situation develops and what the DVLA decided not to allow in the future.