This marks a special moment in the Vernacular Spectacular series. This pair is up for comparison because, for the first time, I was having an exchange with someone in America and I used the Australian phrase instead of the American because I’ve come to like the ring of the Aussie phrase more.
But, we should think about this. Maybe I’m just infatuated with “number plate.” I do like -mber/-mper endings, which makes me worry all the more that I was simply hasty with my previous pick of “dodgem cars” over “bumper cars.” And, the two soft s’s in “license” don’t go that well with a simply and stately word like “plate.”
On the other hand, “number plate” isn’t exactly an accurate term, since here and elsewhere the plates have both letters and numbers on them. We’re talking about an item people are legally compelled to attach to their cars, so accuracy is not a trivial concern.
Jeremy’s winner: number plate (accuracy actually is a trivial concern; I was just trying to gin-up some suspense for a fairly obvious win)
Number plate is more descriptive than license plate, anyway. They do have at least some numbers. It does also sound nicer.
On the surface, number plate seems like the clear victor. But what if you want to refer to the numbers on the plate? Doesn’t license plate number sound better than number plate number? To what extent does the phrase in question have to travel well?