Hong Kong, in common I guess with other countries, allows a system of personalising car number plates. In Hong Kong however it is a profit generator. The process allows you to apply for a number plate which is then auctioned. As the originator you rather hope that no one outbids you, but I suppose it can happen.
These personalised plates are in the English language but they seem to be largely unmonitored by the Transport Department – and can lead to some irritation or misinterpretation.
I used to have a sense of humour failure myself when I saw my family name used as a "number plate".
Only because people kept asking if it was my car. Now the only satisfaction I derive is that if someone is looking for me to exact revenge for some wrong doing I may have committed, they might plant a bomb in the wrong car first, thinking it was me!!
But this lack of "thought" if you like when the Transport Department approves the names in the first place can lead to other rather more unfortunate consequences. For example, as my rather smutty mind was working overtime a few years ago, I commented in my Blog on the wisdom of allowing a car to be registered with the plate “Fuk Hing”. And now I see we are at it again. In the last list of personalised plates up for auction that I saw is one with the name of “Lady Kaka”. Puzzled?
Kaka, it is true, is the name of a Brazilian footballer so the name does exist in another part of the world, although it might be worth pointing out that the person concerned is male rather than a "Lady". And maybe the owner of the car that will bear the "Lady Kaka" plate has the nickname of Kaka. If so, again no real harm and I must point out that I certainly mean no disrespect to her in what follows. But in the more “slangy” end of the English language “kaka” means, politely, faeces. I am quite sure that the licensing authority really doesn't know what it is accepting sometimes, and why should it - English after all is not their first language.
While on the subject of names, and language, I had the privilege of attending a talk recently by the author Lynn Truss, who wrote a great book called “Eats Shoots and Leaves”. She is very entertaining and is known as the "Apostrophe Warrior" for her defence of punctuation and the comma in particular. If you have an interest in grammar – no matter how fleeting, the book is a wonderful refresher and reminds you of the correct use of punctuation marks.
I must say that one of the irritants in my life today is getting letters (yes, and emails) that are written badly. Now I am the first to admit I am not perfect, but some things I get to read, signed by people for whom English is their first language, should actually be taken out and burnt. The authors, I suspect, in every case know exactly what message they intended to convey, but they don’t put themselves in the position of the reader. With the result that the letters often contain misspelt ambiguity. In addition this obsession with using first names in a letter is, frankly, offensive and rude. If I am happy to be addressed as “Dear David..” in a letter or email, which more often than not I prefer, I will let you know. But don’t take the liberty yourself of assuming you are already my bosom buddy.
In fact, I spoke to Ms Truss after her talk and said that I had found her book a great “refresher course”. It was not supposed to be a “Teach Yourself Grammar” book, but it certainly put me back on track, after I had fallen off the rails by employing some bad practices. (Such as I still do in these Blogs).
In our modern technologically driven world, there is still room for politeness – and for using language that is easily understood by some of us dinosaurs. Even the younger generation will benefit. It is the sloppy use of language that leads to ambiguity, ridicule, and therefore to misunderstandings.