This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There are at least 6,549 license plates in Utah that no one can have.
Every year, the state processes more than 10,000 applications from people who want 2BCOOL and have a vanity license plate. Of those, about 5 percent don't make it past the scrutiny of the Office of Miscellaneous Services, the division of the Department of Motor Vehicles that deals with personalized license plates.
Since it started providing personalized plates in the 1970s, the office has rejected more than 6,000 applications, according to a list provided to The Salt Lake Tribune. SEARCH: See the restricted plates
So, what makes the cut? • The DMV's website says any proposed plate that is vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene gets rejected. Also nixed: Anything related to drugs, drug paraphernalia, sexual acts, genitalia or bodily functions.
Plates also can't hint at superiority or contempt of a race, religion, deity, ethnicity or gender.
Those guidelines lead to a not-so-short list of rejected plates.
There's the sex ones, like "0KNBED," "EZLADY," "4N1K8," and any combination of the numbers 6 and 9 (which is also the case for standard plates).
That means not only are plates like "69XTC" banned, but also "69TBIRD." Last year, Arnold Breitenbach, a Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient from St. George, was denied for the same reason though he intended the plate letters "CIB-69" to represent his Combat Infantryman's Badge plus the year he was awarded the Purple Heart.
No body functions, so no "POOP" and "0FART."
No drugs and alcohol, so "OXICT1N" and "CHRDNAY" are out.
Nothing considered insulting: "4NSKS," or "NOMOMOS," and scores of racial and ethnic slurs have been rejected.
And then there's the just plain rude: "IH8U," "0BYTME," "PYOU."
But some bans are puzzling: "RUGOOD," "COFFEE" and "CHEESE" are all banned. So are "LESBIAN" or "GAYGUY." It appears that "STR8" is available and "STRAT" is already issued, according to the DMV website ("STRAIGHT" is one letter too long).
The process • So who makes the call?
Personalized license plates undergo a series of "checks," said Alison Imlay, manager of the Office of Miscellaneous Services. The plates are run through a computer program, and searches on Google or Urban Dictionary. Hopefully, that catches the "most likely meaning of the plate," Imlay said.
But that won't catch everything, and the office relies on its "very knowledgeable" staff of eight, Imlay said. The office also deals with things like impounds, tow yards and insurance questions hence the title: Office of Miscellaneous Services. (Department of Mysteries, anyone?)
How do staffers keep their minds in the gutter? Imlay didn't say, but she did divulge that a person's knowledge of vulgarity is not a question asked in the job interview.
But even with a savvy staff, the process leaves a big question: Who decides what is "vulgar," "derogatory" or "profane"?
"These are judgment calls," said Charlie Roberts, a spokesperson for the DMV.
Sometimes, "bad" plates slip through the cracks: Recently, the department recalled the plate "IFUSEEK."
The plates were on the streets when a complaint came to the office. Roberts said at first, the staff couldn't figure out why it was offensive, assuming it had a religious undertone (If you seek, you will find, and so forth.) But Roberts said his middle school days made the offense pretty obvious. We'll let you figure it out (Hint: "see" is the phonetic version of the letter "c").
Another time, a man applied for the personalized plate, "SSMAN," claiming a desire to profess his pride to be from South Summit. The plate was printed and almost delivered before someone caught the trick the plate was on a Utah State Aggies group plate, which dons a big "A" on the left side.
Wondering what kind of gross things you could get on your plates? We've put together a database to search the 6,000-plus banned license plates.
Got any fun stories about license plates? Send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org.