Among his claims to fame, MP Árni Johnsen successfully lobbied for legalising vanity plates on vehicles in Iceland and became the first proud owner of one when he snagged “ÍSLAND” in 1996. Today there are 5.295 vehicles with such plates, which is about two percent of all vehicles in Iceland.
Much like there are rules governing the naming of people in Iceland, there are rules governing the “naming” of vehicles, which reflects the ease at which Icelanders (and citizens of other Nordic countries) give up their personal freedoms for the greater good of society.
In the case of the vanity plates, both English and Icelandic words are permitted, but if an Icelandic word is used, the law states that it must follow correct spelling and grammar rules.
Furthermore, the law states that vanity plates should not anger or make people feel uncomfortable. However, much like the condition that people’s names may not cause their bearer embarrassment, this is a rather subjective rule and it’s up to a committee to make the call.
Since 1996, the committee has rejected thirty or so plates. The plates “POLICE” and “KILLER” were amongst the first to be rejected because they could “make people feel uncomfortable.” Additionally, the plate “KILLR” was rejected three years later because it was too similar to “KILLER.” The plates “STUNT,” “STUNTS,” “DEVIL,” “SATAN,” “Ó GUÐ” (“OH GOD”), and every variation of “FÍKNÓ” (NARCO) have also been rejected for this reason. “We try to follow ethics and be sure that plates are not hurtful or insulting,” Vehicle Inspection Director Karl Ragnars told a newspaper reporter in 1996.
Perhaps it’s the freedom of not being required to use the English language correctly or the fact that many Icelandic words are just too long, but a perusal of registered vanity plates reveals that a great number of them are indeed in English.
So we decided to make a short list of vehicles to perhaps follow and get to know better and others to avoid at all costs if possible. Interestingly, suggesting that you’re an alcoholic or just plain insane does not give the Committee reason to believe that some people might feel uncomfortable.