Adventures in antonymy

Yesterday’s Bizarro/Wayno collaboration:

(#1)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

From NOAD:

noun vanity: 1 excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements. Antonym modesty.

That’s the antonymy. Which you need to plug into the idiomatic compound vanity plate:

noun vanity plate: North American a vehicle license plate bearing a distinctive or personalized combination of letters, numbers, or both. (NOAD)

Vanity plates aren’t necessarily expressions of personal pride or boastfulness; often they merely express personal associations.

The expression is apparently only about 50 years old. First cites in the OED:

vanity plate: 1967 Britannica Bk. of Year (U.S.) 804/3  Vanity plate, an automobile license plate bearing distinctive letters, numbers, or a combination of these and usually available at extra cost.

vanity number plate: 1983  Daily Tel. 10 Oct. 13/4  They will sell you a personalised or ‘vanity’ number plate for as little as ten dollars.

Fuller coverage from Wikipedia:

A vanity plate or personalized plate (United States); prestige plate, private number plate, cherished plate or personalised registration (United Kingdom); personalised plate (Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom), custom plate (Australia and New Zealand) or request plate (Czech Republic) is a special type of vehicle registration plate on an automobile or other vehicle. The owner of the vehicle pays extra money to have their own choice of numbers or letters, usually portrays a recognizable phrase, slogan, or abbreviation on their plate. Sales of vanity plates are often a significant source of revenue for North American provincial and state licensing agencies.

A boastful example:

(#2) U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s vanity plate, displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

From Wikipedia:

George Gipp (February 18, 1895 – December 14, 1920), nicknamed “The Gipper”, was a college football player at the University of Notre Dame under head coach Knute Rockne. Gipp was selected as Notre Dame’s first Walter Camp All-American, and played several positions, particularly halfback, quarterback, and punter.

Gipp died at age 25 of a streptococcal throat infection and pneumonia, three weeks after a win over Northwestern in his senior season, and is the subject of Rockne’s famous “Win just one for the Gipper” speech. In the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American, he was portrayed by Ronald Reagan.

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