When a DMV customer wanted to supposedly express his affection for his two children, Kyle and Sean, he applied for a vanity plate that read “KYLSEAN.” A sharp-eyed DMV staffer reviewing the proposed plate quickly raised an alarm. “Kill Sean!” he scrawled on the side of the application. Request denied.
KylSean was one of 20,000 requests for personalized plates that the California DMV received that month; nearly 250,000 were fielded by the department in 2018. Applicants are required to fill out a form listing the personalized plate they desire, along with a brief explanation as to why they want it. Whether or not the plate sees the light of day falls to a panel of four beleaguered bureaucrats, who weed through the slush pile and ferret out requests that are racist, tawdry, or otherwise offensive. It’s a tougher job than you might think. Ever since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, Californians have tried sneaking all manner of sly euphemisms and overt obscenities past the department’s guardians of civility.
Official DMV policy rejects “any personalized license plate configuration that [carries] connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” Broadly, this covers anything with sexual, racial, or profane meaning—even if it’s unintentional. When one customer requested a plate inscribed with his last name, Moorehed, reviewers denied it for its potential profanity. Although the customer’s last name really was Moorehead, they explained, “it looks like ‘more head,’ ” as in “a sexual reference.”
Helpful departmental guidelines also warn reviewers to watch out for words like “pink,” “monkey,” and “muffin”—all euphemisms for vagina—along with their phallic counterparts like “knackers,” “anaconda,” and “nards.” Any configuration with the word “hate” gets tossed as well. Porcine references like “pig,” “swine,” or even “oink” are also verboten because they’re deemed derogatory to police. More controversially, the guidelines instruct evaluators to pass on any plate with the word “Jew” in it—indicative of the word’s function as both an identifier and pejorative. (References to Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists are alright.)
There are exceptions, however. While “box” is generally rejected as a “vagina reference,” the DMV will allow it on a plate if the customer owns “a ‘Box’ type vehicle such as a Scion or a Porsche Boxster.” Similarly, only cars built in 1969 can use the number 69 on their plates.
As one of the most diverse states in the Union, California contains an expansive lexicon of offensive, lewd, and inappropriate words and cultural references. (Californians speak at least 220 languages—that’s 220 different ways to say “poop.”) But armed with Google Translate, Wikipedia, and Urban Dictionary, the DMV’s sentries gamely manage to weed out profanity in multiple languages, coded Nazi symbolism, and obscure internet acronyms.
Los Angeles obtained thousands of rejected applications after an official records act request. Here are a few of the more brazen, creative, and accidentally provocative plates, complete with the applicant’s explanation and the DMV’s deadpan response.
Applicant Explanation: In remembrance of me and my girlfriend’s anniversary. Meaning be my bae, before anyone else.
DMV Comments: Bae=Poop in Danish
Applicant Explanation: Husband and wife initials and year of marriage
DMV Comments: 8 Looks like Hate; JWS looks like Jews
Applicant explanation: Lit is a slang term which means good, amazing, etc!
DMV Comments: Lit=Intoxicated, Slit=Rude slang for a woman or vagina
Applicant Explanation: It has no meaning I just want to get it because I like it that’s it
DMV Comments: 420 National Smoke Day 4-20 marijuana
Applicant Explanation: Schlafer is German for sleeper.
DMV Comments: Also means sleeper in the sense of an inactive agent or terrorist (Wikipedia)
Applicant Explanation: Playful joke
DMV Comments: BMW hunter, he has an Audi. So he’s hunting down BMW drivers?
Applicant Explanation: On my way to bang your bitch
DMV Comments: What he said
Applicant Explanation: Have unwavering faith (4) respect the Day
DMV Comments: Who farted
Applicant Explanation: Celebration of my son moving out of the house
DMV Comments: Dick
Applicant Explanation: In support of climate change initiatives
DMV Comments: Looks like no to cooch
Applicant Explanation: I’m the extension of my dad. My father’s name is “Dick” and I was named after him
DMV Comments: Dick extension. Customer’s name is Brant
Applicant Explanation: Sad time in my life and my car is blue
DMV Comments: Blew Me
Applicant Explanation: I have a white cat named “Moby.” I want to name my white car after her.
DMV Comments: Moby dick… Moby cat… Vagina?
Applicant Explanation: The lettering and numbers in this plate are the same as a chest my grama left me when she passed away.
DMV Comments: Looks similar to a text penis.
Applicant Explanation: Myself being a middle-aged woman
DMV Comments: Hot and sexy
Applicant Explanation: Funky trumpet in the funk music genre
DMV Comments: Fuck Trump
Applicant Explanation: We are always getting busy in our home. I’m a single mom, work, school, band, city council meetings, sports, dr appt, etc. Getting busy!!!
DMV Comments: Getting busy
Applicant Explanation: Fish ball
DMV Comments: Fish…Ball…Some sort of sexual?
Applicant Explanation: I am a nurse anesthetist
DMV Comments: Gas passer, she passes gas (farts)
Applicant Explanation: Am a gay man who loves playing video games (Gay…Gaymur)
DMV Comments: Looks like he’s saying ‘gamer’ but using ‘gay’…Could be taken offensively?
Applicant Explanation: We love Palm Springs
DMV Comments: Looks like we love pussy
Applicant Explanation: I’m a professional fisherman and I fish for tuna all over the world.
DMV Comments: I Googled him. He is and he does
Applicant Explanation: The rock band Tool’s second album title from 1996
DMV Comments: Custom meaning is true, but sounds like Enema
Applicant Explanation: My nickname
DMV Comments: Shiksa=noun (often derogatory, used by Jews), a non-Jewish girl, dictionary.com
Applicant Explanation: Saint Anne is an important historical figure, and someone who I model my life after.
DMV Comments: Satan
RELATED: Five Life Lessons to Take to the DMV
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