Lorne Grabher, a Nova Scotia man who had lost his personalized licence plates due to an offendonym continues to fight his battle and was in the news recently (see CBC news) as he cited and diagnosed the essential arbitrariness and hypocrisy behind the decision that prevents him from using his own name on a licence plate.

As reported by the CBC, government curtailing of freedom of expression does not always follow consistent and reliable standards:

In an affidavit filed this month in support of his constitutional challenge of the decision, Grabher cited Halifax Water transit ads headlined “Our minds are in the gutter,” “Powerful sh*t,” and “Be proud of your Dingle,” the last one a reference to a prominent waterfront tower.

Clearly, government censors show tolerance of double-entendre humour when it is intended to be vulgar (and therefore, probably offensive to some people) while rejecting an offendonym.

Grabher has issued several important comments regarding freedom of expression and the notion of offense in his statements

“I am increasingly dismayed by the hypersensitivity of some people who are ‘offended’ by every little thing they encounter. I am further dismayed that these ‘easily offended ones’ are not content only to be personally offended. Rather, they seem uniformly inclined to try to use the power of a supposedly ‘neutral’ state to do something about their whining,” he says in the affidavit.

“Canada is not a country where a person gets to be ‘offended’ at everything. Canadians who complain to the government about every little thing should be politely but firmly informed that we live in a cultural mosaic that respects individual freedoms. Such diversity and freedom are impossible if the government seeks to eliminate or limit every little thing and every little difference that could be perceived as ‘offensive’ to someone.

Grabher’s case highlights the challenges and risks of a society that elevates petty and largely inconsequential linguistic serendipity to the scope of serious concern.  An offendonym is a word that sounds like something that could be offensive to someone.

The maturity that permits us to “be proud of our Dingle”, among the many possible examples of offendonyms that populate public dialogue, should also provide space for an unusual surname.

 

 

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