Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Identity at 70 MPH: The crafting, meaning, and importance of personalized license plates

Identity at 70 MPH: The crafting, meaning, and importance of personalized license plates

Rebecca Cornejo

Personalized license plates allow the owner of a vehicle to express themselves in creative ways.  While some work has been done on the variety of plate names out there, little work has been done on ascribing meaning to the combination of letters on a personalized plate. How can identity be conveyed in the constraints of such few spaces, and why is this kind of language use important? This original research looks at 334 personalized license plate found in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.  The collection will be analyzed to show methods used by vehicle owners to express themselves using very few spaces. Additionally, this article will discuss the semiotic nature of personalized plates, and the importance of this kind of language play and creativity. The literature review will show that this type of language use promotes healthy literacy habits and abilities, demonstrates the evolution of language as we use it, and shows us creative ways to express one’s identity in a confined space.

April 6, 2017 - Posted by | abstract


  1. This is so neat! I mean I literally said “What!? That’s so neat!” when I read the title.

    I don’t have anything in the way of feedback, but I’d love to check out your paper when it’s finished.

    Comment by Travis Kruso | April 8, 2017 | Reply

  2. Hi, Rebecca! This is a really unique and interesting topic. From the perspective of someone who use to have a personalized license plate, I definitely wonder why people choose some of the characters they do. I wonder if you discuss the practical reasons why someone would get a personalized license plate. They might be easier to remember or they do it to give money to that organization and etc. Your abstract is very concise and understandable though I wish you would share a result or an answer in it.

    Comment by Bridget Bennane | April 26, 2017 | Reply

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