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.

Filed Under: canada, david assman, free speech, license plate


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Feb 2019 @ 8:24pm

    [Pro wrestling joke]

    Somewhere, Billy Gunn is applauding.

    [/Pro wrestling joke]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Gary (profile), 19 Feb 2019 @ 8:47pm

    First he couldn't get a license plate. Then us his name on Facebook.
    And then the Canadian Government said he couldn't use it on official forms, because the mandated obscenity filters blocked it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Feb 2019 @ 9:08pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    carlb, 19 Feb 2019 @ 11:01pm

    Not the only one

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    carlb, 19 Feb 2019 @ 11:02pm

    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-lic ence-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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    spodula, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:31am

    Well done!

    He's fought long and hard about this. The cheek of the people involved. Hopefully the beurorcracy will look at this and decide others in the same situation wont have to take the plunge down the rabbithole of stupid regulation before getting a good outcome for all involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:38am

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    bob, 20 Feb 2019 @ 2:30am

    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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCmMs10JLw4

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    TomL (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 3:20am

    Canadian Government

    Just for the record, the Canadian Government has nothing to do with licence plates. That is a provincial (state level) jurisdiction. Same type of asinine bureaucrats work there too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Helmut von Autobahn, 20 Feb 2019 @ 4:30am

    Smart people hide behind foreign languages.

    He could have used French language, or even better, one of the Inuit's native languages. 100% free-pass. I had my U.S. vanity plate saying "LICK MY" (ASS) in Czech language and guess what? I told the lady at DMV office it was a Chinese proverb. It passed!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Bruce C., 20 Feb 2019 @ 4:56am

    Canadian government officials...

    should be thankful these two won't be getting married. The bureaucratic implications of the Grabher-Assman nuptials boggle the mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 5:32am

    Re: Canadian government officials...

    My 13-year-old sense of humour laughed way too long at this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:31am

    So Canada govt are the one being assmen towards our hero, eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    crade (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:47am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anon, 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:58am

    For the Millenials...

    Assman burst into national (international) prominence when David Letterman found his name and called him live on his early Late Night show decades ago (1990's?). He's been a Canadian icon ever since.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:05am

    Re: Smart people hide behind foreign languages.

    He did try that—the name's German.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:18am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    OA (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:49am

    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'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    Still has nothing on the OB/GYN Dr Harry Beaver.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Dave, 20 Feb 2019 @ 8:48am

    Re: For the Millenials...

    Dick Assman recently died, actually.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    John85851 (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 10:29am

    Re: the pronunciation is important

    And that reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit where Rob Schneider played a character named "Oz-weep-aye", but spelled "asswipe". :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    The only 'approving' the government should be doing is checking to ensure the requested plate is not already issued to another vehicle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    crade (profile), 20 Feb 2019 @ 11:56am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Dr. Beaver

    ... or the Catholic preacher Cardinal Sin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:48pm

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:51pm

    there aught to be a law

    Perhaps governments should be legally prohibited from using slogans like "express yourself" (or its variants) to promote vanity plate schemes, as they're false and fraudulent advertising. The government is not allowing the ratepayers to express themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:53pm

    federal plates?

    Want Canadian federal licence plates? That's easy. Drive defensively: Buy a tank!

    Army vehicles have federal plates. They are otherwise rare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anon, 20 Feb 2019 @ 12:57pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 1:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    carlb, 20 Feb 2019 @ 2:32pm

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2019 @ 5:04pm

    What happens if Sioux Gateway Airport wants their FLY SUX slogan

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Rekrul, 20 Feb 2019 @ 6:01pm

    Re: the pronunciation is important

    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.

    They used that in an A&W Root Beer commercial;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQPtKNZpfz4

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    Bergman (profile), 21 Feb 2019 @ 12:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Helmut von Autobahn, 21 Feb 2019 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Smart people hide behind foreign languages.

    OK, you're right. He is definitely a german porc(upine).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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