Thursday, April 06, 2006



I really like vanity plates. I think it's the hidden writer in me. Vanity plates are a form of creative expression as strictly structured as any haiku or sonnet. You have a few simple rules:
  1. You may only use capital letters, numbers, dashes, and spaces;
  2. You must keep your creation under seven letters (plus one space or dash)
  3. No dirty words...usually.

That last one's open to some debate. Here in Virginia, at least, there's a nifty little online tool that lets you input your potential plate and see if it's both allowed and available. The tool knows enough to reject obvious curse words ("ASS" is smacked down, for instance--sorry, Seinfeld fans), but not enough to stop the substitution of numbers for similar-looking letters ("A55" pa55e5 with f1ying c010r5). Maybe the DMV needs to hire more from the ranks of the leet (warning: sound) to get hip to the modern lingo.

Now, those are the impositions of the DMV. Good sense dictates that the potential plate poet exercise a bit of restraint, too. You need something that's funny more than once, since you're going to have it for a while. You don't want a plate that takes too long to understand, because if there's anything less funny than a joke that you have to explain, it's getting rear-ended by the person behind you too busy trying to figure out what "TI 3VOM" meant to notice the red light you'd stopped at. (Hint: that plate works better on the front of the car.)

With all these restrictions, though, there are still hundreds of good combinations out there, bounded only by the imagination of the vehicle owner. And let me tell you, the vehicle owners in Virginia have some pretty good imaginations. Some of the good ones I've seen:

  • JS4LAFS - cute, simple, to the point. People probably let this driver cut in a lot. I did. And to her credit, I got not one but two thank-you waves in return.
  • KELTYC - simple phonetics tribute to Ireland.
  • PL8 NMBR - can't argue with that. Ditto for "CAR" and "TRUCK".
  • AG EQUUS - on, naturally, a silver Mustang. I admire this one; it's not often you can list everything you remember from two high-school subjects in seven letters.
  • AU EAGLE - while you'd think this would be on a gold Talon, it was in fact on a black Honda, which made no sense at all until I saw the Auburn U sticker.
  • VGEPUNK - "I eat my tofu...raw."

...and some of the not so good:

  • I DZRV IT - on a red Mazda with a license plate frame that said "Call me! 1-800-YOU-WISH". Hmm, little red coupe screaming "my driver is a dink" you think this might be the most-pulled-over car in the state?
  • ISMLBCN - I guess not. But what chutzpah! Why not just put "SPEEDER" or "CR THIEF" on there? (Both are available, by the way. So is "8ALLZY".)
  • FCASTRO - Fidel supporter? Or is he saying "F--- Castro!" Or maybe the guy's name is just Frank Castro. Too many options.
  • WHT RBT - on a black Mustang. Maybe just a Monty Python fan?
  • ULYSTK - huh?
  • LADZ MAN - funny, but mostly because I didn't initially prounce the "D" correctly, leading to a run of Brokeback Mountain jokes.
  • BROKBAK - just kidding. That one's still available, actually.

So what about me? I've just got the boring ol' standard-issue plates, for now, in spite of spending more than a few idle hours whiling away various combinations at the Virginia DMV site. Much to my dismay (if not surprise), "OVRLORD" is long gone. So is 'NOGOL4U". "BIG PNIS" is still available, but let's face it, I don't want to have to back that up. Also, unlike the aforementioned BCN-SMLer, I'm perfectly content with the number of moving violations I have currently.

No, I'll just stick with what the state gives me, for now. As you may have noticed by now, conveying a pure, concise message in as few letters as possible runs pretty much exactly contrary to everything about my creative style. But if I'm whiling away some time on the internet some afternoon, and I discover that OVRLORD is suddenly available...I may not be able to HLP MSLF.


Anonymous said...

WHT RBT might also be a Lewis Caroll and/or Jefferson Airplan fan

Anonymous said...

(oops) or even Jefferson Airplane

Office Overlord said...

Good point! He must've had a tough time choosing that one when RED PILL and BLU PILL are still available.