More on license plates in Bengalūru, and in India

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/02/14 10:16 -05:00, original URI:

A quick follow up on Canada isn't Kannada, ay (ಎ)? that was inspired by a comment from Sandeep:

License plates are generally a literal transliteration of English pronunciations into respective language in India. In Maharashtra also this is common. So a number like MH 1 A 1001 will be like  एम एच १ ए १००१.

Now my first thought was that it was cool that my non-native-speaker Spidey senses were nevertheless good enough to have figured that out, but that is only mildly impressive (and probably not at all impressive to the native speakers who would obviously figure that out so much faster anyway.

But my second thought was perhaps more interesting (and I hope Sandeep or another reader knows the answer!):

What happens with vanity license plates?

I assume that they exist -- the real question is that if they do, and if there is overlap between those who get vanity plates where they choose the numbers/letters and those who get these transliterated into another language plates, do you get top choose the transliteration?

It actually takes us back to a unique solution to the whole PenIsland vs. PenisIsland issue I mentioned before in this post and this other one -- if one is given the opportunity to provide and guide in the pronunciation, one can help assure that the way that people read the plate matches our intent!

Of course I doubt that two or more identical plates would be issued to different people just because the transliteration was different, but even so it is very cool to contemplate -- it is (as the post title indicates) a sort of ruby for the masses, a real chance to have the best possible control over the way people will by default interpret the text.

Unless people ignore the transliterated license plates when they see them -- which might be easy since they do not exist on every vehicle.

This raises another interesting idea -- remember how cool I thought it was that the license plate I saw seemed to "spell out" an English word in part of the Kannada text? How about vanity plates that take advantage of that idea to spell out other words?

Over here the DMV makes sure to do an "obscenity check" on applications to be sure no offensive plates are issued -- would the analogous departments in India have to account for this extra level of indirection in their approvals? Do they have to now for the existing plates?

Might be fun for someone who happened to be a Microsoft employee working on the Zune project to choose to put 7819 which would put


on their license plate, right?

Now this raises another question -- can people use other Indic languages? I imagine in Hyderabad the Telugu/Urdu/Hindi thing has to raise its head. Can one choose one's script?

Can they mix their choice? How about after the government and the people who make the plates move more to Unicode?

Were I still a consultant, I think I want the gig to move the license plate programs to use Unicode. That seems like it would be a fun Unicode conversion project to me -- they could pay me off with vanity plates of my choosing. :-)

The possibilities for expression seem endless!


This post brought to you by ೭೮೧೯ (U+0ced U+0cee U+0ce7 U+0cef, aka KANNADA DIGIT SEVEN, KANNADA DIGIT EIGHT, KANNADA DIGIT ONE, and KANNADA DIGIT NINE)

Pavanaja U B on 14 Feb 2008 12:19 PM:

One of the project that I did for Microsoft Research Labs India (MSRI) involved converting from legacy encoding into Unicode. In another project (not for MSRI) I had converted/transliterated from English into Kannada (names).


Suraj Barkale on 14 Feb 2008 3:03 PM:

We don't have vanity license plates in India. All license plates follow the format [(2 letter state code)(1/2 digit area code) (2 letter prefix) (4 digit number)]. AFAIK only the Roman script license plates are official. So if you have one in Indic script you must have other in Roman script. This is usually a problem if you travel between states say from Karnataka (Kannada script) to Maharashtra (Marathi script).

Ironically in India only universal scripts are English and Devnagari (in that order).

Rosyna on 14 Feb 2008 4:01 PM:

Hmm, I was watching one (episode 400, Ran's Suspicions) of the 495 episodes of Detective Conan a week or so ago and it was largely entirely about vanity license plates in Japan. Since the Japanese love their puns, and quite a few numbers can be made with puns, it seems the Japanese can make vanity license plates with nothing but numbers (and sometimes the prefix kana).

Anywho, Shinichi ended up stopping an attempted bank robbery (long before the attempt was made) because the license plate on the car the criminals were driving was:



Gazzal on 14 Feb 2008 11:03 PM:

No vanity plates here....The numbers have a specific format... So anyone can tell looking at the plate where the car is coming from or atleast where it was registered...  

And hence there is a great demand for fancy numbers... You can ask for a number of your choice (iif its not taken yet) and if there are other takers for it, the govt. puts up an auction... Great demands are for 1 ofcourse and other numbers like 999, 007 (people can get childish here :)) etc....

But that doesnt stop people from inovating... I've seen the number 8055 written in a subtle way that it reads BOSS....

Sandeep on 15 Feb 2008 1:39 AM:

No vanity plates in India. The format specified by Suraj is always used.

But Gazzal is write. People write their number plates in fonts which will be a spelling for some word in Devanagari or other scripts. eg. 5412 written using some decoration can spell out पवार (a surname in Maharashtra). But it is illegal to use decorative fonts by law (but some people don't care :)

Arun Philip on 15 Feb 2008 4:29 AM:

Although geeks like us don't need fancy numbers. We just try and figure out a formula which makes our plain-vanilla number into a "fancy" one.

@Gazzal: Was that 8055 in Tamil Nadu? Anything to do with Rajini (da boss)?

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referenced by

2010/07/14 License plate curiosity in Tamil Nadu

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