Fun History: License Plates

Have you ever seen a stenographic license plate? It’s a funny truth that while there are not so many people who can survive a stenographic education, just about anyone can read stenography if they care to, and we can even be called out on some of what we do.

In 1993 a decision was made (reaffirmed) that in California to be deemed an offensive word unsuitable for a license plate, a word need not be understood in that manner by every addressee. This happened when Anita Kahn appealed the decision by the DMV to revoke her stenographic license plate which had the phrase “if you can” on it. For our non-court reporting audience, this can also be translated as the F word. The court determined that some 50,000 to 60,000 people in the state could understand it, that there was therefore a large enough audience to find the word offensive, and that DMV could revoke the plates.

It’s not too often I get to write about fun or interesting things, so it’s my pleasure to get to write about Kahn v Department of Motor Vehicles (1993) (No. B064070. Second Dist., Div. One. May 3, 1993). Originally brought to my attention via a Facebook post. Indeed, it’s a good reminder that wherever we are and whatever we do, there’ll always be someone to rat us out. Kidding!