Douglas Adams described a theory that "if people don't keep on exercising their lips...their brains start working" but scientifically I understand that this is not literally the case. What is true is that however difficult the circumstances, and however limited the available language, people will still do whatever it takes to have their say.
So. Car registration numbers. Take, for instance, the cool and classy number SJP 1. What would that number convey?
Well, what it would probably convey is that the car belongs to Sarah Jessica Parker (they are exceptionally cool initials), but it would probably also convey the message IMR1CH. Or perhaps BIG5TAR.
But are people really so hugely keen to get across that sort of message? Couldn't these registration plates be nothing more than an amusing whim?
Well, the person with the car registration number F1 paid £440,000 for it.
Hang on, I just need to stop and let myself take that figure in.
Crikey, there's a car with ANG3L on the back not far from where I live. I wonder how much that cost? And, now I come to think about it, what is ANG3L supposed to be telling me? Am I supposed to think that the driver is the kindest and most beautiful person in the world? Because if I am, I'm afraid it's not working.
A little research reveals that, thank heavens, not all number plates are ludicrously expensive. BA11 BEN is currently on offer at £2,699. So, if you're called Ben and you have a lot to do with...
...hm. I think I may be missing something about the attraction of that one.
Even cheaper is AMO 4 MOB, which not only involves a classy bit of Latin (amo, I love) but proclaims the driver's admiration for gangsters. A snip at £399.
And, I mean, how many policemen know Latin, nowadays?
At the same price you can get A VS1LAN (which nearly spells A VILLAIN. After all, someone stupid enough to carry that on their car is unlikely to be able to spell, is he.).
Having said all that, my favourite number plate of all is not a British one but one from Ontario. I don't know how much it cost, but it says, simply:
Word To Use Today: registration. This word comes from the Latin registrum, from regerere, to transcribe, from genere, to bear.