David Assman Invalidates Canadian Government's Reason For Refusing Him His Name-Based Vanity License Plate

from the the-assman-cometh dept

It’s been a source of confusion for me over the past few years how there can possibly be so much conflict in the realm of vanity license plates. While I can understand the need for something in the way of rules when it comes to government-mandated plates, it’s still the case that such plates are a form of expression and, given the government mandate, one would think the government would tread lightly when it comes to overly restrictive rules for them. And, yet, stories about agencies disallowing Star Trek references because ignorant people think they’re racist, about police being unable to have a plate that reads “O1NK“, and about governments somehow thinking IT-related terms are sexual abound.

At first glance, one man’s request for a vanity plate that reads “ASSMAN” might appear to be outside of these types of cases. After all, even the vulgar among us might understand a government worker disapproving of such a request out of concern for the purity of all the other drivers out there. On the other hand, when the denial for an “ASSMAN” vanity plate leaves the Canadian government offices in an envelope addressed to David Assman, it seems we’re right back in the territory of the prudishly absurd.

Assman first tried to put his name on a license plate in the 1990s. That application was rejected by SGI as “profanity.” His recent application was denied on the grounds that it was “offensive, suggestive or not in good taste.”

“I think they are too worried that people are going to have hurt feelings about something that is complete nonsense,” Assman told the National Post by direct message last week. “Even if it wasn’t my last name who is it going to hurt?”

This decades long struggle by David Assman to get the Canadian government to acknowledge that his own last name is not vulgar in the form of a license plate must surely have been frustrating. Why should Assman have to put up with this shit? Regardless, even if you would come down on the side of the government denying him his vanity plate so as to prevent his vulgarity of a surname from showing up on the back of his vehicle, Assman has other outcomes in mind.

David Assman is the hero we need, not the one we deserve. Yes, this story’s final arc is Assman completely invalidating the reasoning behind the Canadian government denying him his vanity plate in the first place. In case you cannot see the picture, he had an auto body painter put his own last name on the back of his truck in letters that would be, oh I don’t know, ten or so times the size that they would have been on the vanity plate itself.

And so we tip our hat to the Assman this day. And we remind bureaucracies everywhere that people should just be allowed their vanity plates.

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Comments on “David Assman Invalidates Canadian Government's Reason For Refusing Him His Name-Based Vanity License Plate”

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Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I came here to make a similar comment. Namely that it could be a lot worse than just a license plate — imagine him getting a letter from the government ordering him to change his name (probably at his expense) to something not vulgar or offensive.

It’d be even worse if his name were simply erased from government records pending him picking a new ‘acceptable’ name. I’ve heard of similar things happening with other names. For example, there was a school some years back that refused to register kids with the surname of Hell — German for Light.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

If seeing a ‘naughty’ word on a license plate will so unhinge someone, perhaps we should be wondering why they are allowed a drivers license?

He wants to pay you extra money for a plate, perhaps take the money?
The world will not end because of a plate says assman.
Plates are meant to identify vehicles, pretty sure Assman is more memorable than 87987flijs98.

We really need to spend less time protecting people from the possibility of being offended.

carlb (profile) says:

Re: Not the only one

There’s a Lorne GRABHER in Nova Scotia facing a similar issue with his Austrian patronym: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/lorne-grabher-wins-750-from-province-amid-battle-over-licence-plate-1.4718837

Only difference was that his family already had the plate (him, and his father before him) only to have the province try to revoke it.

bob says:

the pronunciation is important

It might help to know that the pronunciation of Assman’s name is "Oz-mon" So its not like he’s going around saying he is a butt-man or anything vulgar in the first place.

Reminds me of the scene from Shawshank Redemption when the convict reads the name Dumas and pronounces it dumb-ass because he didn’t know any better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Canadian Government

Just for the record, the Canadian Government has nothing to do with licence plates.

Not quite "nothing"—federal plates do exist for federal government vehicles, but the public only deals with provinces and territories for their plates.

Timothy’s wrong about this "entirely" invalidating the government reasoning too, in that it’s not the government writing a potentially offensive word. They can tell anyone who complains that they had nothing to do with it; and for bureaucrats, that matters.

crade (profile) says:

Unfortunately it doesn’t invalidate the reason behind it. The reason behind not wanting to put the assman on his plate is not because of how it affects others but of how it reflects on the government. He can paint whatever he want on his car without it coming from the government or having any sort of "the government approves this for of government business" sort of statement happening.

Whats painted on your car or on your front plate is your speech alone, whats approved to put on an official plate is also the government’s speech.

OA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This comment could suggest that the government is a person that can have rights. AND this "person" is somehow separate and distinct from the citizenry and society as a whole. This idea is incompatibility with both the concept of a government and the activity and responsibility of governing.

  1. This logic is not usable in this scenario.
  2. Government cannot exist AS a ‘Bubble’.
crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think you are misinterpreting.. I wasn’t "implying" that the government has some sort of special rights or that it needs to exist separately from the people or some such nonsense just that Assman doesn’t here.

We (well at least Saskatchewanians in this case) do elect our representatives to decide how to conduct government business and what level of decorum is appropriate in official government issues materials and we don’t elect them to tell Assman what to paint on his truck.

No, not at all. The gov’t here is supposed to be representative of the provincial (in this case) public as a whole, and the representatives feel that the public doesn’t want them putting this stuff on their official license plates.. that those terms are not representative of the public’s wishes for government behaviour. Whether the government exists as a bubble isn’t relevant. The government has responsibility to the people. The people here have expectations for how the government should act so they

carlb (profile) says:

Lucky they don't do this to the names of towns

There are plenty of bizarre place names like https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Places_with_unusual_names which probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day were they submitted as vanity plate applications. (Wikipedia has another, similar list.)

For instance, "Sheshatshit" is harmless in Labrador’s native Innu community, where the native language pronounces it "sheshajeet", but it gets enough odd looks from anglophones that the natives would likely be prone to give up at times and just spell it "sheshatsiu" to stop the laughter.

Look up "Scunthorpe problem". Automated censor algorithms are infamous for blocking this sort of thing, so I have no idea whether this post will see the light of day…

Anon says:

Re: Lucky they don't do this to the names of towns

When our company was debating corporate policy for determining userid’s on the network (something certainly worth a 2-hour conference call in the early 90’s) I pointed out that first-initial-last-name or not, Sam Hitchcock could by exception have whatever username he wanted.

carlb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Lucky they don't do this to the names of towns

The same issue appears with first name-last initial, as adding letters to the end of given names can awkwardly modify them. The most common issue is that a stray trailing -a -e or -o can misgender a name. For instance, Simon E. says that his name is not Simone. Same issue with Carl A. or various boy names which merely take the ladylike version of a name and truncate a trailing -a or -e, so Juan is the boy version of the ladylike Juana.

And then there’s the joke about the hardnosed new boss who walks into some stuffed-shirt office demanding to be addressed as "sir" and to address his workers by their last names only. So what is your name? "That’s Mr. Jonathan Darling to you, sir."

carlb (profile) says:

Ontario - FENTANYL - Yours to discover!

Dr. Todd Calhoun’s, an anaesthesiologist at North York General, was given vanity licence plate FENTANYL by his spouse at the turn of the millennium. At the time, “It was not a drug of abuse out there, it was not a street drug. It was a hospital drug, as it should be.”

A couple of decades later, after greedy drug manufacturers had managed to get the dangerous drug onto prescription pads, from which it ended up on the streets – killing people – that plate was causing enough problems that the good doctor complained to MTO himself to get the plate revoked and replaced with another – DR DORMIR (français: Dr. Sleep). Apparently a drug dealer approaching him and his family offering prescriptions was the last straw.

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