Superlinguo over at Tumblr has posted a list of number plates that police cars in Australia's Northern Territory will carry to promote road safety. Superlinguo says:
You’ve gotta admit, these winners have used incredibly creative word combinations to create a message within a seven-character limit.
How many can you decipher? How does your brain deal with the lack of spaces, case markings and vowels?
It's easy enough to work out what most of them mean, though doing it at speed with only a brief glance at the plate might prove harder (MYISONU would be particularly tough). Some of them are also more effective than others.
* We’ll give you a hint with this one, because we found it a bit obscure and had to look it up: Sober Bob is a long-running campaign by the Northern Territory police to discourage drink driving by urging people to organise their ride home before they go drinking, i.e. nominating a ‘Sober Bob’ option early, to make sure they get home safe.Thanks to Alice Springs resident Emily for forwarding us the list.
I especially like CLKCLAK, which I imagine is the equivalent of our 'clunk click' slogan, meant to represent the sound of a seatbelt buckle. That's a much better message than BUCKLUP or BELTUP, which are just simple instructions. CLKCLAK works because it's memorable, sticks in your head and you know immediately what it means.
Another personal favourite is BSAFEM8, perfectly reflecting the Australian dialect. Nowhere else in the world would you call anyone and everyone 'mate', especially from a policeman to a member of the public. We do have 'mate' as a generic term of address in the UK, though usually more among men, and in this case it's fine to use it with a stranger if you're both on an equal footing socially. It would be just about possible for a policeman to say it to someone they didn't know, but it would be for a reason, like if they wanted to calm them down and make themself more approachable. It can't be used as universally as it can in Australian English.
And finally, those SBRBOB and SOBABOB ones. As the note says, they're referring to a character called Sober Bob. What interests me is that there are two spellings, one reflecting a rhotic (r-pronouncing) pronunciation of 'sober' (SBR) and one not (SOBA). I think Australian English is generally non-rhotic, so I wonder if there are some varieties that are rhotic, or whether it's simply because of the spelling, and the R is not intended to be pronounced.