Before there was Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, there were personalized license plates—the proto-tweet, in a sense, limited to 7 characters instead of 140. Since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, California drivers have spent many idle minutes in traffic decoding the customized letter and number combinations in front of them, uncovering job descriptions, clever jokes, and sentimental messages.
But just as social media companies have found it increasingly necessary to moderate the more pernicious and inappropriate forms of language, the Department of Motor Vehicles has long stood as a bulwark against tawdry and offensive license plates (at least, in theory). In California, the DMV employs four full-time reviewers who sort through the tens of thousands of applications received each month. In 2018 alone, the department fielded nearly 250,000 requests for personalized plates.
In general, the DMV instructs its reviewers to “refuse any configuration that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” This includes euphemisms for genitalia, racial and ethnic slurs, weapon and firearm-related terms, and even references to law enforcement. The number 88, even when used to denote the year of a birth or graduation, regularly gets rejected for its neo-Nazi symbolism (“H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” ). Reviewers even reject plates with area codes, which fall under the category of “Gang, Hate Group, or Criminal Organization association.” Some exceptions exist—the number 69, for instance, can appear on plates belonging to cars manufactured in 1969.
When someone applies for a personalized plate, they also provide an explanation of the meaning behind their desired configuration. If a plate gets flagged for potentially violating the rules, the reviewer comments on the application with the reason for the flag. The “dialogue” between the unwitting—sometimes clumsily deceptive—customer and the deadpan reviewer reads a bit like a bureaucratic farce.
Last week we published some of the best flagged applications from a public records request, but there are so many good ones, we can’t resist publishing more. They’re a mix of both brazen attempts to sneak vulgarity onto California’s roadways and (occasionally) innocent attempts to pay tribute to people, places, and activities that just happen to too closely resemble slang for excrement or genitalia. Some of the text has been reformatted for clarity, but spelling and punctuation errors remain in full.
Applicant’s Explanation: Saying very dear to my heart. Something my father used to say when he was proud of me.
DMV Comments: Russian for dumb ass
Applicant’s Explanation: Grandfather’s initials and birthday
DMV Comments: Looks like well ho
Applicant’s Explanation: Symbol of auspiciousness and good omen
DMV Comments: Swastika
Applicant’s Explanation: Mr Bonner to you
DMV Comments: Mr Boner (hard on) to you
Applicant’s Explanation: Find Your Universal Everlasting Consciousness Searching (For) Knowledge
DMV Comments: Fuck yes
Applicant’s Explanation: Wife’s initials
DMV Comments: Looks like All Hail Hitler
Applicant’s Explanation: “KOM” is my initials and “taco” is short for Tacoma which is the truck it’s going on
DMV Comments: Looks like come taco
Applicant’s Explanation: Disabled Veterans Don’t Give-up. Always Fight.
DMV Comments: DV Don’t Give A Fuck
Applicant’s Explanation: I’m Down For Womans Unity [sic.]
DMV Comments: I Don’t Fuck With You
Applicant’s Explanation: Zoomba To Karla’s Love
DMV Comments: Zombie To Kill
Applicant’s Explanation: To Klyde Love Zoomba
DMV Comments: 2 Kill Zombie
Applicant’s Explanation: Riding Hard
DMV Comments: Could be a sexual reference or a term used when some one is dancing to a beat and hittin the moves
Applicant’s Explanation: Twin Turbo V6 engine
DMV Comments: TT … Penis … Titties
Applicant’s Explanation: Long Beach, VA. Stop denying my license plate because you think 562 is gang related. VA limits 1st amdnt and 2nd amdnt enough. I was born here, I like my city.
DMV Comments: 562 Lakewood Area Code
Applicant’s Explanation: Soulmates!!!
DMV Comments: Soul mate… 88-Hitler
Applicant’s Explanation: Plumbing contractor how I make my money
DMV Comments: Poo money
Applicant’s Explanation: What the grandkids call me. I was refused PAPPOO2
DMV Comments: Poo, in order #122 we denied customer’s request for PAPPOO2
F DA EPA
Applicant’s Explanation: My two grand mothers intials. Fanela Danya Andrada Elena Puraci Arnaut
DMV Comments: Fuck the EPA
Applicant’s Explanation: Information Technologist For The Sacramento Chapter Of The California Automotic Collectors Association
DMV Comments: Its Caca…Poop
Applicant’s Explanation: This was the name of my dog
DMV Comments: Urban says it means slut
Applicant’s Explanation: Combination of the word wankel and rotery refering to the mazda rx8 engine type
DMV Comments: Wanker… Fucker… Masturbate
Applicant’s Explanation: Charlie brown always say’s “awe rats”, but it’s peanuts, so we like this for it. Like you’re saying, oh darn.
DMV Comments: Nuts, sexual reference
Applicant’s Explanation: All you see is the back of my car
DMV Comments: You, hostile
Applicant’s Explanation: Eye See You Car
DMV Comments: I See You, can be taken as hostile
Applicant’s Explanation: We are huge fans of marvel comics and Harlee Quinn
DMV Comments: Wreak Havoc could be taken as hostile
Applicant’s Explanation: Boatswain’s Mate Master Chief Baby Boats
DMV Comments: BB can stand for bareback
Applicant’s Explanation: Dang Kool 65
DMV Comments: Dank can be a word used to describe good weed
Applicant’s Explanation: Dorito Furito Lays
DMV Comments: Looks like Dori Fuck You
Applicant’s Explanation: Madison Ave Carpet Cleaning Middle and last name initial
DMV Comments: Mac can be another word for pimp
Applicant’s Explanation: My name is mac. Wanted MACMAN or MACAMAN but both were taken so I’ll use a 7 in there
DMV Comments: Mac can be another word for pimp
Applicant’s Explanation: Me and my kids initials
DMV Comments: The BJ at the end stands out, BJ stands for blow job
Applicant’s Explanation: Toyo Racing Development
DMV Comments: Terd, obscene
Applicant’s Explanation: Why Am I So Nice (Chinese)
DMV Comments: Why Me So Hoe
Applicant’s Explanation: Last name and husband’s last name
DMV Comments: CAO=FUCK in Mandarin Chinese but it IS her last name
Applicant’s Explanation: degenerate x
DMV Comments: DEGENERATE can mean a sexual deviate per dictionary.com. With the X could be taken as Generation X. His name is Xavier though
Applicant’s Explanation: fish more
DMV Comments: Sexual connotations, also Fuck It Shit Happens
Applicant’s Explanation: Game 4 hustle
DMV Comments: GAME 4 as in baseball or basketball? Hustle as in making money by any (illegal) means?
Applicant’s Explanation: Houllas short for Catahoula which is a breed of my dogs. Also the state dog of Louisiana and commonly referred to as a spotted leopard hound
DMV Comments: True but, Haul Ass
Applicant’s Explanation: first letter of names in my family
DMV Comments: I FUCKED JENNIFER LOPEZ
Applicant’s Explanation: Los Angeles Boksie (Boksie is Africaans for friend)
DMV Comments: BOK=SHIT IN TURKISH, couldn’t confirm their meaning in Africaans
Applicant’s Explanation: Meaningless car nickname
DMV Comments: Means “bang me” in Croatian (google translate)
Applicant’s Explanation: Owner of the car
DMV Comments: D BAG=douche bag
Applicant’s Explanation: Say the Number 10
DMV Comments: Satan
Applicant’s Explanation: It means true change. Its a phrase we use in our family.
DMV Comments: I FUCKED YOU (SPANISH) **NOTE: “T CHINGE” recently went through… should we try to stop it?
Applicant’s Explanation: I handle herptiles as an avid herptile (reptile or amphibian) lover this has a lot of meaning for me
DMV Comments: Looks like Herpes but her meaning is true
Applicant’s Explanation: It is a reference to my rank in the Navy, Chief Petty Officer and how I am always chiefin
DMV Comments: Slang for smoking week [sic.]
Applicant’s Explanation: Nickname
DMV Comments: Can’t translate but some Google results say Pang=shit
Applicant’s Explanation: Hawaiian for non local
DMV Comments: Dictionary.com – Hawaiian word for foreigner or white person, can be ok or used disparagingly. Some are out there
Applicant’s Explanation: Bushcraft: the art of beeing knowledgeable about how to use mother nature in ones advantage while in the outdoors/backcountry.
DMV Comments: Looks like Bitch Craft
Applicant’s Explanation: Be the Chosen One
DMV Comments: Bitch What
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