Man's 'offensive' number plate banned in Sweden

The Local Sweden
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Man's 'offensive' number plate banned in Sweden
All good and well until you look at it in the mirror. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/TT (image manipulated by The Local)

Swedish transport authorities have denied a car owner's request to have his number plate changed after officials caught onto his attempt to slip a naughty word through their net.


Swedish number plates traditionally follow a pattern of three letters plus three numbers, but it is possible for drivers to ask for permission to create their own personalized so-called vanity plate.

But one man, from Varberg in southern Sweden, was defeated when he tried to trick the Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) into accepting his licence plate of choice: 3JOH22A.

"The combination of characters you have requested could be seen as offensive," replied the agency when it pulled out its big rubber stamp to ruthlessly deny the driver's request, reports public broadcaster SVT.

To the untrained eye, the agency's decision may seem like an exaggerated display of authority, a sign of Swedish bureaucracy gone mad. But we are fairly sure most of our readers have by now caught on to the fact that the letter combination was not as innocent as the man made it out to be.

Here's a picture of what it would have looked like reflected in a mirror:

What it would look like in a mirror. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/TT (image manipulated)

According to the Transport Agency's rules, a personalized number plate "may not be designed if it causes offence or harm to anyone else". Such offence usually involves allusions to alcohol, drugs, sex, swearwords, religion or criminality.

But it is not always clear-cut. For example, four years ago it decided to tell a motorcyclist he was no longer allowed to use the number "666" (or, the number of the Antichrist) – despite giving the plates the green light five years before.

It is not the first time drivers have tried to get hidden messages past the eyes of authorities. A Texan's licence plate was declared illegal in the US last year after officials noted it too spelled out the word 'asshole' when read upside-down. 

Seriously, what a 3JOH22A.


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