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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Lifestyle, Worldview and Identity: Names on Customized Vehicle Registration Plates

B Neethling
University of the Western Cape, SA, South Africa

More and more South Africans are investing in acquiring so-called personalized or customized vehicle registration plates. It is a win-win situation: provincial government departments involved with vehicle registration earn valuable extra income by issuing such plates, and vehicle owners enjoy the freedom to select what goes on their registration plates, a welcome alternative to the rather dull numerical option.
Many different categories of names are displayed on such registration plates. I argue that this phenomenon is squarely situated in the domain of ‘popular culture’ and that in nearly all cases the choice is determined by the perceived identity of the vehicle owner. Aside from ordinary first names, surnames, nicknames and the like, there is a group of owners who prefer to select a ‘lifestyle’ or ‘worldview’ name which is clearly also an expression of identity.
The paper highlights examples of this kind which often reflect attitudes pertaining to gender (particularly from female drivers), age, and association with other well-known symbols or celebrities. The data is mainly from the Western Cape, although there are examples also from other provinces.

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