Kristen Perry, an Australian woman, has gone by the nickname “Kiki” since she was a baby. One day about 5 years ago, her thoughtful husband surprised her with vanity plates featuring the nickname. They seemed like a perfect accessory for her Porsche.
Unfortunately, the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority disagreed, after it received a complaint from another motorist advising that the word “Kiki” translates into “vagina” in the Tagalog language of the Philippines.
The RTA responded to the complaint by sending a “please explain” letter, threatening to take Mrs. Perry’s plates away if she couldn’t show she had a good reason for choosing them. She told the Telegraph:
“At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realised it was actually quite serious and that my number plates would be taken off me if I didn’t respond appropriately.”
Obviously, neither Mrs. Perry nor her family were aware of the crude translation. She told the Newcastle Herald that upon seeing the letter, she called her father and asked “Do you know you have been calling me vagina all my life?” It’s too bad nobody was videotaping that particular conversation – I’ll bet the look on her dad’s face was priceless!
But should it matter if your license plates mean something offensive in another country’s language? After Mrs. Perry went to the media, the resulting uproar caused the New South Wales RTA to admit that issuing the letter demonstrated a lack of “common sense” on the agency’s part.
Even the Filipino-Australian Society of the Hunter Valley agrees. President Rebecca Macdonald told the Newcastle Herald that :
“If you are in Australia, you are part of Australian ways and culture, who would know what the word may mean in The Philippines? It is a word which would have many different meanings. There are many words with different meanings in different languages, it was not meant to be offensive and it is not offensive.”