The off-color personalized license plates that are banned in Illinois
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 18, 2011 9:34AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
BOOGR BOOTIE BRNAKD
That’s a G-rated sampling of the license plates you won’t see on Illinois cars. They’re vowel-challenged, sophomoric . . . and banned in the Land of Lincoln.
The state, since the early ’80s, has kept a list of dirty plates that at least one person tried to slip past the Secretary of State’s office.
The list — known as the “Special Plate Inhibit List” — contains 4,758 entries, and it grows by about 20 each week.
They range from the confusing to the offensive to the hilarious. Some, if uttered by a curious child at a red light, are grounds for grounding. A lighthearted variety will be strewn willy nilly throughout this story. DOGLIPS
“Some of them just make me shake my head,” said Candace Wanzo, who heads the specialty plate department, and whose finger hovers above the approve or deny button. “I can’t believe individuals would actually pick some of these plates.” UPDWAZU
“I think some of the people have been out all night drinking and then sit down at the computer,” said Wanzo.
Wanzo, 48, and her staff of about 15 do their best to filter out offensive plates, but it’s tough. People can get crafty with the seven characters. And Wanzo’s crew must decipher foreign languages, chopped-up word puzzles, backward spelling and the evolving acronyms of a text message lexicon — a sometimes unfamiliar language to a staff of mostly of middle-aged women from Springfield. MKNBCN
They use tools like Google, Google Translate, and the Urban Dictionary (a website that translates slang) to help sift the crude from the harmless. UWENCH
“We try to give people the opportunity to express themselves that we feel is in good nature, but if something comes across and is borderline — it’s a no,” said Wanzo who’s worked with custom plates for nine years.
“As you drive along the highways there are also children reading the plates — we try to make sure everything stays as clean as possible.”
Some requests are accidentally dirty, like when a person’s initials spell a questionable word.
“If there’s one that is questionable I will show it to the director and we’ll make a decision. We try to make it a consensus,” said Wanzo. Other times the decison boils down to one person’s sensibilities.
Either way, some slip through. SKINYDP
“A few years ago we had to recall all the WTF plates — it was about 15 or 20 plates,” said Wanzo, who added that her office also recalled a series of MILF plates after the term was popularized by the movie “American Pie.”
Headaches arose a few years ago when plates reading “GIV ME A” were issued to a man from Northen Illinois. Only later was it apparent the seemingly harmless phrase, when combined with the name of the man’s vehicle (a civilian version of a military SUV), formed a sex act demand.
“We received several complaints and actually had to send the Secretary of State Police to the man’s home several times because he didn’t answer the door or the vehicle wasn’t there when he did,” said Wanzo. Officers finally met the man at his workplace and retrieved the plates, which were shredded and recycled.
Another plate proclaiming Russian swear words was on the road for two years before Sergei Levkovitch, who speaks the language and works in Wanzo’s office, saw it by chance while doing paperwork and sent out a recall notice.
“If we recall a plate we give the motorist a chance to explain themselves before we make a decision. Some people give a good explanation, others make up a few words of what they meant and we don’t buy into it,” said Wanzo.
Banned plates flaunt bodily functions (BRKNWND), seem to taunt the law (BYECOP), titillate (NOBRA) and baffle (GOLFSEX). Much of the list, woven with sex and profanity, seems the idle thoughts of a raunchy comic.
But not all custom plates have a high school sense of humor.
Rejections make up less than 2 percent of requests for the 150,000 custom plates issued each year.
“A lot of times it just amazes me what people are thinking, or how what is happening with current events is reflected on license plates,” said Wanzo.
Since President Obama’s rise to power, 1,428 plates were issued with variations of his name.
“There are no Rahm plates yet—but it seems inevitable,” she added.
White Sox plates on the road total 1,466; Cubs plates total 2,155. But Blackhawks top both with 2,583. A glut of STNLYCP requests were made after the Hawks won the championship last year.
Nearly 1.25 million of the 10 million passenger vehicles on Illinois roads have custom plates--which fall into two categories: “personalized” (numbers and letter) and “vanity” (just letters). PUNKMOM
“Even with the economy the way it is, we are still getting a lot of plate requests,” said Wanzo, who noted a new vanity plate for a vehicle 8,000 pounds or less is $193. SNOTDOC
“People are still paying money to express themselves.” HVABEER