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In some countries, you aren’t allowed to personalize the license plates on your vehicle. Other countries changed that rule when they saw the revenue it created. Some countries let you bid on numbers.

The highest price paid for a vanity plate worldwide is $14 million. The plate “1” was bought at an auction in Abu Dhabi in 2007, purchased by Saeed Khouri.

In Middle Eastern countries, lower numbers are desirable, a sign of wealth. In the U.S., people personalize plates for a variety of reasons, and it is primarily the statement on a frame — “My other car is a Mercedes” — that indicates wealth (or the lack thereof).

In California, personalized plates aren’t as popular as you might think. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators says that Virginia has the highest percentage, at 16.2 percent of plates issued. Texas has the lowest, at .6 percent. At 3.49 percent, California ranks 22nd, with 1,136,772 personalized plates out of 32,592,000 registered vehicles.

Certain models of car are more likely to sport personalized plates. The Mini Cooper, maybe because of its size, lends itself to creative messages.

When Volkswagen reintroduced the Beetle in 1997, you often saw vanity plates with “BUG” in them.

I don’t see many Priuses with vanity plates, but in the parking lot of Hazard Center, there’s one that reads “CB [heart] 2 TCH.” It belongs to Carol Benesch of San Carlos. “Do you know what it says?” she asks.

“Uh, that you love to teach? I assume the first two letters are your initials.”

She laughs. “Okay. I just have so many people that think it means ‘love to touch,’ and some people will say, ‘What do you do that you love touching? Are you a masseuse?’ Sometimes it’ll be creepier. I guess it makes a good conversation piece.”

Was this your first choice of a license plate?

“Oh, no. I kept trying to get one that had something to do with clean air or the environment. But all my choices were already taken. My husband and I both have a Prius. It’s not because of gas prices. We just want to make a difference, and we care about the environment. He has a UCLA license plate that’s personalized with ‘JB UCLA.’ That’s a tradition in his family, and his parents bought it for him as a gift. But he has a bunch of Obama stickers on the car, and I won’t drive it because of that. I think it can be dangerous because of the way people get about politics.”

What about the dangers of having students know which car in the parking lot is the teacher’s?

“I did think about that. I teach in Encanto. My philosophy was, if someone really wanted to mess with my car, they would just wait and see which car was mine. I’m at the school from 6:00 to 6:00.”

The next time I’m at a stoplight on Camino Ruiz in Mira Mesa, I see a red Ford Explorer next to me with a plate that reads “4 OKIE.” I roll down my window, hand him my card, and say I want to interview him about his plate. He sends me an email a few days later that reads: “My name is John Flowers, and I own the red Ford Explorer Sport Trac with the license plate ‘4 OKIE.’ I was going to a volleyball game with my granddaughter. I don’t know what information you wanted to know, but here is the story behind this plate. My ‘4 OKIE’ plate says this because I’m from Oklahoma. I’m also a big Oklahoma University Sooner fan. While I was in the military, everybody started calling me ‘Okie,’ and the nickname kind of stuck. I tried to get a plate saying just ‘OKIE,’ but there is another car in California with that plate, so I settled for ‘4 OKIE.’ My other car has a plate that says ‘OUGRMPS.’ It stands for Oklahoma University Grandpa. I hope the above info is what you wanted. Take care and God Bless.”

I send Flowers an email with follow-up questions but never hear back from him.

The next day, on the I-5, cars are flying by me with personalized plates. I can’t catch up to them doing less than 80. There’s a “PHNXFLW.” A cute African-American girl in a Mustang with “GTTO FAB.” The fastest car is driven by someone who whizzed past at approximately 90 mph, with a plate reading “I SPEED.” But pulling off the Sports Arena exit, I find a car that was easy to catch up with. A woman in her 70s is driving. I follow her to her place in Point Loma.

Debbie Blum, a sex education teacher, has a plate that reads “P WELL.” I ask her if it means what I think it does. She laughs and says, “It sure does. My husband, who passed away in 1999, was a urologist. He had been asked by colleagues why he didn’t get one that said ‘CANT GO,’ but he said that even though that’s why you’d visit a urologist, he wanted to be positive.”

Blum’s daughter, in her mid-40s and living, along with her husband, with Mom, says, “People love the plate. They give us the thumbs up. Old men especially like it. They understand it. And if someone asks what it means, we just tell them to read it slowly, and they say, ‘Oh.’ ”

Debbie continues, “We had our first plate say ‘OOSIK.’ That’s the name of the penis bone in a walrus. Only four mammals have a bone in their penis. And it was only a few military men, or guys from Alaska, that knew what that meant. Now that Alaska is more in the news, maybe that’s changed. An oosik is two feet long. It’s an Eskimo word. But since [my husband] was in the medical field, he didn’t like when people thought it stood for ‘Oh, sick.’

“In the early ’90s, the DMV was actually looking into foreign words, because a number of words had gotten by them. When my husband got the ‘P WELL,’ the lady at the DMV said sharply, ‘What does this mean?’ He quickly said, ‘It stands for the Pure Well Water Company,’ which at the time did deliveries here in San Diego. There was a fellow urologist named William that had a plate that said ‘WET,’ but it’s his initials that just happen to spell that.

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tcjohnston March 4, 2009 @ 8:29 a.m.

You really nailed the zeitgeist with this story. I'm enthralled by all the comments.

I have a pic on my cell of a pristine yellow 65 Mustang with the standard old black/orange plates, with my initials on them. Pure coincidence. Gorgeous. When I saw it, I was leaving a sushi bar, which involved a great deal of sake and $. I might have killed the guy and stolen his car if I could find him [smiley face emoticon].

gavin_bowlby: It never occurred to me that one might fake the CA number-letters-numbers scheme on a vanity plate. What a fun way to mess with people.



Josh Board March 4, 2009 @ 9:38 a.m.

Yeah, that STP could've been a Stone Temple Pilots fan also. The problem with Gavins concept is that the number sequence at the end is so limited.


Josh Board March 6, 2009 @ 11:46 a.m.

Thanks, Nacho.

I just got a call from a guy with the last name Ford. It reminded me of the movie The Wrestler, and Rourkes character named Randy The Ram Robinson, and he's driving a Ram van. And, the girl he likes drives a Ram truck. This dude should be driving a Ford.

Anyway, he brought up a few interesting things. He collects license plates...mentioned Hodad's, and their wall of plates. Also, that the vehicle used to drive on the moon, had a special license plate (who knew?)

He also said that in the 40s, in some state in the mid-west, they made the plates out of soy, but the problem was goats eating them.


Josh Board March 10, 2009 @ 2:11 a.m.

Russ...that Kafka thing sounds funny. I'll be on the look out for that.

On Letterman tonight, he had a license plate joke. It went something like this:

Bernie Madoff is trying to make a deal now. He wants to go to one of those nice prisons, that are like a resort. Those are the places where they don't make the regular license plates, but the personalized ones."


mattyj2001 March 6, 2009 @ 5:22 p.m.

Am I dumb, or is this math incorrect?:

"The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators says that Virginia has the highest percentage, at 16.2 percent of plates issued. Vermont has the lowest, at 6.1 percent. At 3.49 percent, California ranks 22nd, with 1,136,772 personalized plates out of 32,592,000 registered vehicles."

Not that it's a big deal, but I think Vermont's percentage should be lower than 3.49.

Secondly, the A55 RGY Florida plate mentioned in comment #36 is not a legend at all, but the real story is slightly different:



donrparty March 9, 2009 @ 10:11 a.m.

Here are 2. Over 20 yrs ago I saw a black Mercedes in Hillcrst with this EEECHA. I figured that one immediately and wondered how dense the DMV censor that day must have been.

In the SF area, a coworker likes Toyota, likes racing, is a female. So she got TRDGRL on her little Toyota MR2 or whatever it is. No, not as in feces, but as in Toyota Racing Develpment. I would never . . .

Can someone clue me in what ITMFA refers to? My density level is high today. I can't figure it out. Something political?


NachoDaddy March 4, 2009 @ 7:26 p.m.

Had you pitched this idea to me, I would have told you that it would be unreadable. Congratulations on making and unreadable subject readable.

What always gets me is when someone loves their jacked up family names so much, that they feel they should go on a personalized license plate.


Barbarella Fokos Feb. 25, 2009 @ 12:43 p.m.

The plates on my Mini Cooper Sport are DQMNTRX. The "O" was taken.


MsGrant Feb. 25, 2009 @ 1:35 p.m.

There used to be a classic older Jaguar in San Jose that had the old black and yellow license plate that said "A PUSSY". Barbarella, could you have used a zero instead?


Joe Poutous Feb. 25, 2009 @ 1:44 p.m.

I had a 1963 Plymouth Valiant with "VALIUM"..

  • Joe

Barbarella Fokos Feb. 25, 2009 @ 2 p.m.

MsGrant, I learned in the process that they don't differentiate, there's only one O. Had no idea! It's fun though, when people try to figure out what the "Q" signifies. I've heard some interesting and innovative guesses. On my old champagne-colored Corolla, my license plates were GO BARB. Can't help it, I like to broadcast. ;)

Joe, that rocks.


shizzyfinn Feb. 25, 2009 @ 2:08 p.m.

a few months back, I spotted my favorite California plate to date...it was on a sports car parked in the Trader Joe's lot in Hillcrest...KUMLORD


Josh Board Feb. 25, 2009 @ 5:03 p.m.

The best story about personalized plates didn't make it in here. It was written about in a small story in the Reader a few years back, about someone with a plate that said AIDS NEG or some such thing, took their car up to San Fran. A guy there was upset that his plates, which were similar, were yanked by the DMV. When the DMV saw this guy all over the news, they promplty pulled his plates, too.

I tried talking to a guy that was on my high school basketball team, that someone told me has a Redskin plate. But he never called me back (he played a year or two with them).

And, the Pistola line seems a bit of a non-sequitar, but I was mentioning in the story about how the NBA had the Washington Bullets change their name, because "bullets" aren't such a positive thing, yet the DMV doesn't seem to mind that (although they have a problem with certain numbers being gang related). That section hit the cutting room floor.

I'm waiting for all the letters to come into the Reader that say "Cop cars don't have personalized license plates you idiot!"


Vincent Feb. 25, 2009 @ 6:47 p.m.

Some years ago, I was surprised to see a VW Rabbit--driven by an attractive young lady--with a personalized plate that read POO C. I'll bet the DMV "repossessed" it when they figured out what it meant...


jhight Feb. 25, 2009 @ 6:54 p.m.

"Cop cars don't have personalized license plates you idiot!"


DianeWelch Feb. 25, 2009 @ 7:10 p.m.

In England the number plates-- as they are called--sort the haves from the have nots. Each plate has a last letter which represents the year of the car. So social status is gained from having the current letter, corresponding to the current year, on your number plate.ie, 'look at me I'm driving a brand new car!'

To circumvent this oddity, those that care, purchase personalized plates--but the price is high. For beaucoup bucks--or in England's case pounds--one may be an even higher rung ahead than the next chap. So if one has a private plate, that is in the category of 'really snooty status.'


Russ Lewis Feb. 25, 2009 @ 7:14 p.m.

I read once about one that made it past the DMV. It read IVPLAY. (Hint: Think Roman numerals.) And I once saw one on the freeway, evidently driven by a James Brown fan, that read ONTHE1.


Russ Lewis Feb. 25, 2009 @ 7:18 p.m.

Josh, I can't believe you neglected to mention the translation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" that is written entirely using actual California vanity plates. For real. It's an actual book.


Fred Williams Feb. 25, 2009 @ 8:22 p.m.

I don't know if this will get through the Reader's censor, but it's germane to Josh's story. So here goes:


A collection of license plates around the country with "ITMFA".

(Note: It didn't make it past the autocensor, so when you paste that in your browser, replace the * with a "u".)


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 25, 2009 @ 8:35 p.m.


I had a SURFING buddy in PB that had a plate that read SR4DYE.


sattin Feb. 25, 2009 @ 9:53 p.m.

I saw a plate once on a Jaguar that said JAGOFF, and I also saw one that said BOOBS - I'm surprised those got through! And I read a story about a car (in another state) that had the license plate JEW PEW. An observer (who was not Jewish) complained to DMV about that one, and the owner voluntarily gave it up. It turns out that the seemingly derogatory comment was only the initials of a guy and his wife!


jray Feb. 25, 2009 @ 11:43 p.m.

My wife & I saw a minivan in Escondido with this plate: F(heart)S R GR8.
We still laugh about that one, don't know how it got through the DMV though....


Joe Poutous Feb. 26, 2009 @ 7:01 a.m.

It wasn't a personalized plate... but while vacationing in Austin, TX a couple of years ago I saw the plate "JHC 666" on a minivan.

I was able to snap a picture of it with my cell phone - surprising, cause I was laughing. Apparently Jesus H. Christ and the Devil are living together in Texas, and they drive a Dodge Caravan.

  • Joe

Josh Board Feb. 26, 2009 @ 9:46 a.m.

Diane, didn't know that about England. I did read when I was a kid, that Paul McCartney saw a car with his initials, and bought the plate from that driver for something like $25,000. In those days, they said in the article, you couldn't get vanity plates in England.

There was also a story about five years ago, about a woman (I think in Seattle area), who had her late husbands initials, and the initials of the lumber business they owned together. Well, combined, that made a dirty word or phrase, so the DMV was pulling it. She had the plate for 25 years, and went to the papers. All the PR made the DMV relent and let her keep it.

Regarding Jaguars, I bought a '69 XKE, but all combinations of that were taken, except for a few I didn't care for (things like 1969 J or X69JAGX). I ended up getting 69 JGUAR, but the third thing the DMV website says is that you can't get "69" unless your car is a 1969. Two months later, they said I couldn't have it. I called, was on hold for 35 minutes, and told finally...that I'd need to send in a written request. After I did that, I got it. But one of the things I pointed out was, if they are so against the "69" why do I see it on plates that ARE NOT personalized?

It was similar to a Halloween party I wrote about in Crasher years back. Someone wanted "666" and the DMV wouldn't let them. SO they got 6 SIX 6, which they didn't seem to mind. But, I've seen random plates with 666 RKL, or whatever combos pop up. If the DMV is, again, so against that...well, they shouldn't have them pop up in random plates.


andrea1221 Feb. 26, 2009 @ 7:06 p.m.

Interesting read. I never realized how strict the DMV was with the censoring of personalized plates. I guess it makes sense that they do deny vulgar words but it seems to me they can take that censorship a bit too far.


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 26, 2009 @ 7:23 p.m.

CA DMV pulled this one...and I don't see how the DMV clerks could not have figured it out, it's not rocket science;



bloggurrl Feb. 26, 2009 @ 9:17 p.m.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. When I was young, I had my name on my plates. I got older, and realized how stupid that was. It's almost the equivalent of rappers that have their names tattooed on their arms. And I'm guessing with female drivers, maybe not a safe thing. I'm wondering, with this economy, if people that have their businesses on their plate, and they then go under...is that a painful, constant reminder every time they get in their vehicle to drive to the next job interview?


Josh Board Feb. 27, 2009 @ 12:18 a.m.

Sattin: Yeah, the DMV doesn't like any religious things. Even "ATHEIST" plates get pulled, or vague comments like "BELIEVE" or "FAITH" sometimes become court cases (and a surprising number of people win, if they want to spend the money and fight the DMV).

Surfpup: It's not that the DMV was naive for letting FORNIC8 go. They ask YOU to explain what it means. The person could've said, "The car is "FOR" my husband "NIC", on our "8" year anniverary, so it's FOR-NIC-8, and they probably don't give it much more thought. What I don't understand is...if the DMV deals so much with what offends others, something as simple as "SPEEDER" might offend someone that had a family member killed in a car accident with a speeder. But I doubt they would pull that plate from someone.

Someone told me of a white Benz that said WAS HIS. She thought it was funny, but what if the ex-husband didn't? And he complained to the DMV. Would they take it back? I doubt it. Some people have told me they've seen Broncos, that say NOT OJS. One was white, too. I'm guessing nobody but OJ would be offended, and he's in jail.

A weird story happened in New York last November. 42-year-old Arno Herwerth pleaded to keep the plates he’s had. They read GETOSAMA, referring to the al-Qaeda leader. The DMV told him in a letter that they prohibit plates “derogatory to a particular ethnic group.” This retired cop said in an interview “It’s also my right to be patriotic. I think it would only be offensive to members of al-Qaeda.” He said after the 9/11 attacks, he got the plate on a red, white, and blue car.

Heather Moriah, a conservation organizer for the West River Office of the Sierra Club in Rapid City, loves the personalized license plates on her silver Prius that encouraged the impeachment of President Bush when he was in office.

The South Dakota Dept. of Motor Vehicles decided to rescind Morijah's plates: MPEACHW.

Only one complaint was reported.

The South Dakota Division of Motor Vehicles is trying to recall the plates, and if he doesn't turn them in, the state will send law-enforcement officers to pick them up.

Moriah has said in interviews that the plate isn’t in poor taste, since it’s not sexual in nature and that political messages shouldn’t be considered offensive.

But DMV director Deb Hillmer said that the law clearly gives the state authority to recall the plates and have them forcibly removed if necessary. And although only one person complained, and that's all it takes to recall a set of vanity plates.


rickeysays Feb. 27, 2009 @ 3:02 a.m.

I think it was more fun when I was a kid and calculators were first coming out, and we used to try to figure out how to spell words upside down, like 07734 (picture the 4 open at the top).


Fred Williams Feb. 27, 2009 @ 9:48 a.m.

Way back when I was in the Navy, stationed with an F-14 squadron at Miramar, I dated a gorgeous girl whose plates read "XJENNYX".

I've always wondered what happened to her. She was a lot of fun...

I also remember that one of our pilots had the plates "TOMCAT".

A guy who teaches deaf and hard of hearing kids has "DHHTCHR" on his plates.

A brother had a car plate combo that ended with "3RP"...and we called that car "The Therp".


Joaquin_de_la_Mesa Feb. 27, 2009 @ 4:11 p.m.

Wow, The Reader tapped a rich commenting vein with this one.

Is it just me or does the Barbi lady in the video seem kind of sad. She mentioned that her deceased mom gave her Barbi dolls when she was a kid. If I were a psychology student, I'd write a thesis on poor Barbi lady.

Funny story: I have a couple of friends who are first class Disney dorks. They've never been to Club 33. I, who don't give a crap about Disney, HAVE been to Club 33. Twice. {A friend of mine worked for a big OC law firm that had a membership.} When I told my Disney dork friends about this, they were hysterical with envy and couldn't stand the irony, that I, a Disney indifferent, had been to Club 33 while they, Disney Kool-Aid drinkers, hadn't.


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 27, 2009 @ 4:50 p.m.

I think it was more fun when I was a kid and calculators were first coming out, and we used to try to figure out how to spell words upside down, like 07734 (picture the 4 open at the top).

Wow....dont do that to me....took my little mind over 5 minutes to finally figure it out!


SurfPuppy619 Feb. 27, 2009 @ 4:55 p.m.

Funny story: I have a couple of friends who are first class Disney dorks. They've never been to Club 33. I, who don't give a crap about Disney, HAVE been to Club 33. Twice.

Yes, I too have been to Club 33, just once. The members only club has a long waiting list to get membership in (it is a write off for corporate welfare).

One thing that was always a kick for me was when Disneyland had the old parking lot in front before the did California Adventure there were literally hundreds of employees who parked in front and at least 50% of them had Disneyland related plates. All kinds from Mickey Mouse to Dumbo, to Wizard of Oz (OK it is not Disney but there were many Oz plates for some reason).

It was really amazing to see that kind of branding loyalty. I will always love Disneyland.


Barbarella Fokos Feb. 27, 2009 @ 5:55 p.m.

It's all interpretation. A woman at the DMV was shocked I "got away" with Dominatrix plates -- don't know why, can't see anything offensive about the word. She told me of other, more innocuous plates that were turned down, something like SXYGDMA, for Sexy Grandma, because it was sexually overt. It's all about how you fill in that little line asking what your plate means. For mine, I wrote simply, "A strong woman."


MsGrant Feb. 27, 2009 @ 7:10 p.m.

I saw a cute one today on my walk through Sunset Cliffs. It said (heart) SSCLFFS. I guess you can get seven letters and a heart! Or maybe it only had one F. I don't know the rules. I've never had a personalized plate. My husband's name is John. I was thinking about "THE JOHN" for him. He didn't think it was as funny as I do.....


Josh Board Feb. 28, 2009 @ 1:07 a.m.

ricky: I remember as a kid, someone gave me this math problem for the calculator. Some weird thing about Dolly Parton had 14 kids (pre-octumom, of course), and breast fed them all (as the story is told, you are told to add 14, plus something else). You hit the button for the answer, turn it upside down and say "You know what became of Mrs. Parton?" And upside down it reads BOOBLESS (5 = S, 8 = B, 7 + L). When you're 10, nothing is funnier (and I don't think our parents even minded, because in their warped minds, we're actually doing math equations, not just talking dirty).

I was at Club 33 a few times. No biggie. One person kept saying, as I sipped my wine "Can you believe this? It's the only place on the Magic Kingdom you can drink alcohol!" The guy interviewed for this story told me a lot about it. They do give the members some promo things that are cool, and tours of the park that others aren't privy to. Not just dining in that secret location.

MsG...regarding the 7 letters with a heart, that's interesting. I figured with 7 letters, you couldn't have any spaces. But I kept seeing personalized plates with 7 letters and a space. You can get a "half space" with 7 letters, so I went from 69JGUAR to 69 JGUAR, but found it odd that the person at the DMV didn't tell me this. I asked if I could get a space and she originally told me no.

Barb: two things. My girlfriend saw your car downtown a week ago, and was all excited. And...have you noticed the mini cooper probably has more personalized plates than any other vehicle? A close second might be the VW bug.

On a side note: my sister is living near San Francisco, and is dating a guy who has a plate that says WED 484. He gets sick of people asking them if that’s the month and year they married (it's a random plate). He decided to get a new, personalized plate. Since his last name is Koch, he thought about one that said KOCH RKT, a play on the phrase people use for motorcycles (crotch rocket). Someone at the DMV already told him they wouldn’t approve that.

The DMV denied a request made by Alan Richards. He wanted 1 3 WAR. DMV Spokesman Armondo Botello said “The number 13 is a gang sign and normally doesn’t get approved for personalized plates. Our interpretation of this plate together with 13 and the word war means…the meaning that we give it is ‘gang war,’ and that’s why it was not approved.”

Richards said that that wasn’t the meaning behind it, adding "It also stands for the 13th letter of the alphabet, M for Marijuana.”

Richards explained that with the space between 1 and 3, it means “No 2”, and with WAR, the message being “no to war”. Would the DMV even approve that? Botello says if it’s printed as NO 2 WAR, “…that would not be considered offensive and misleading, and yes he can re-submit it, provided that no one else is using that configuration already.”

But as argumentative as people get about the war, and politics, I have to think someone would be offended by that plate.


ValB Feb. 28, 2009 @ 6:06 a.m.

I have seen some plates that have made me laugh, smile, and others that simply left me clueless. Some just look like the person randomly picked letters out of the alphabet and stuck them together. I say if you're going to spend the extra money personalizing your plate it can't hurt to possibly have a few other people check it over first to make sure it doesn't sound like incoherent babble when complete. Just my cents.


antigeekess Feb. 28, 2009 @ 6:42 a.m.

"Someone told me of a white Benz that said WAS HIS. She thought it was funny, but what if the ex-husband didn't? And he complained to the DMV. Would they take it back? I doubt it."

I saw that on either a black Jag or Benz in Texas in the 90s. I think that some plates are right up there with bumper stickers in their "Please kick my a$$" quotient. Ask and ye may sooner or later receive.

And, as a female who's been cut off from exits and otherwise harassed on the freeway while just trying to get from one place to another, I ain't into 'em. Attracting attention to yourself and your vehicle while driving is not necessarily a good thing.

Of course, if you're really militant about your weed and don't mind getting pulled over a lot, it might be fun to have GOT 420.


Nah, it'd never pass.


jawlaw Feb. 28, 2009 @ 7:47 a.m.

interesting story. the idea of personalizing a license plate seems dumb to me, but then I occasionally have bumper stickers on my car for some political purpose or other, so maybe there IS something to "personalizing" your car. the state needs money so they should definitely charge plenty for those that have it to waste on this kind of frippery.


angelampercival Feb. 28, 2009 @ 7:03 p.m.

I've never had a personalized license plate, but many of my friends have. I have always wanted one but could never decide on something that I could live with. I don't like drawing attention to myself. I'm on the road a lot, so I do notice them. It's fun to decipher the more creative ones. I guess this is just another way of a person expressing themselves. If I had a classic car then I would most definitely have one. Anyway,a friend of mine's close buddy( who is a known SD radio personality) used to have one that said I'mShotz. Can you can't guess who that is?


TFB March 1, 2009 @ 10:59 a.m.

I always thought personalized license plates were a little ego-centric or just silly. But, I've had my eye on the Mini Coopers and really want to get one. Seems like maybe I'll have to break down and get a cute plate with my new cute car. I wonder what the guy in the jacked up monster truck behind me at the stop light will think as he reads my plate, seconds before rolling up and over my car.

Funny article. I liked the interviews on video. They are a good enhancement to the article on-line and remind me of Anderson Cooper running around with his hand held camera. You can be the next A.C. of fluff...I mean feature stories.


Josh Board March 1, 2009 @ 11:11 a.m.

Val: I think people with letters abbreviated that are hard to figure out, mostly don't care. They think they're clever, and if you can't figure it out, they probably like that more. It's like they're part of some secret club.

Jaw: Frippery?

Angela: It's funny with classic cars. Some have the old California plates that were black with yellow lettering. And some say "classic plate" in small letters. I tried calling the DMV to ask about those, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. Regarding radio personality, I'm guessing Shotgun Tom, although he's NOW an LA radio personality, so I'm not sure who you mean. I remember when I was in radio, thinking for a day or two, about getting a plate that said IM A DJ, but didn't think there was anything really clever about that, and didn't want anyone thinking I had an ego.

On trying to trick the DMV, a Bay Park resident told me his friend lives in Florida. He said, “They have an orange in the middle of their plate. So, he got YGR 55A. The DMV asked him what that meant and he told them it was his signature for these computer programs he does. They gave it to him. Well, with the orange in the middle looking like the letter ‘O’, in a rear view mirror, it looks like ‘ASS ORGY’. As far as I know, he still has the plate.”

I researched and saw on Wikipedia, it sites this story and plate as being randomly-generated. But when I went on the Florida DMV website, I found that plate is still available. So, I'm chalking the “ORGY” plate up to an urban legend.


thescribe March 1, 2009 @ 3:53 p.m.

Great story! Just to add one more... there was the Hooker family in Tucson that had audacity to apply for ‘HOOKER1’ and ended up pressing the issue in court.

They were finally able to have the family name on the tag and as far as I know none of them are prostitutes nor do they support the profession.

We do have a few rights left (hopefully more since the inauguration) so always press the issue and push the envelope. Rights that are not enjoyed, cherished and struggled for have a tendency to disappear. Freedom and free speech are always worth the effort.

KC in NP


SassySuds March 2, 2009 @ 12:29 a.m.

I have I(heart)2TROT on my 65 Mustang. One woman thought it meant "I love trout".

Our POS 94 Pathfinder had HMMR1AB and our dusty Miata has BXTR1AB. Tongue in cheek for both of them.

I also have SOAP SUD on my everyday car. I'm a rabid soap maker.

I saw a funny one on a Hummer last week. It said WUT CURB.


Josh Board March 2, 2009 @ 1:18 a.m.

Sassy: I had a maroon '65 Mustang at one time. I wish I still did. A glass artist that I'm friends with, has "OHGLASS" on her plates. I've never told her, but I think she could've come up with something a bit more clever than that.

Scribe: I met a Doors fan that was commenting on liking my WSKYBAR plates. He said he tried to get the Doors song THE END, but it was taken (probably not by a Doors fan, as that could have many meanings). They also wanted LAND HO, but the DMV said the word "HO" was unacceptable, because it can be short for "whore". I asked if he explained to the DMV, that saying "Land ho!" is a phrase people say when they're out to sea. He didn't explain, as he wasn't sure what the best approach would've been.

I had someone at the movie theatres in Fashion Valley leave a note, when I had WSKYBAR on my Sebring. It was two pages long, saying "Are you some idiot that thinks you're Jim Morrison." It went on and on, and the guy I saw the movie with thought it was the funniest note ever. I thought it was funny they used letterhead from the hotel they worked at.

I think I've seen the WUT CURB on the Hummer as well, a few years back. I remember being behind it and being on the phone, telling my friend how funny it was.

I wonder if the DMV would let you get something like YUCK FOU, as it's obvious what you're doing, but you aren't actually spelling the offensive word.

On January 22 of this year, USA Today did a story titled “Drivers Defend Their Pithy Plates.”

It starts off with the story about a Stacy Moore, who had a plate reading “XSTACY” on her Camaro. A few cars and 20 years later, that plate was on a TrailBlazer. And because of the drug ecstasy, the Nevada DMV, which bans references to narcotics on plates, made her return it.


towelheadedcameljockey March 2, 2009 @ 8:19 a.m.

At my high school (back in early to mid 90's) there was a kid who had the plate "CHRONIC". I was always suprised he was allowed to have the plate. This wasn't California, and I'm guessing if it was, there is no way it would have been issued. I would imagine it got revoked soon after that.


tcjohnston March 2, 2009 @ 9:03 a.m.

Hey Josh. That story was a kick to read!

When I bought my Subaru Outback in 2007, I decided to splurge on a plate. I went through lots of possible lawyer permutations, but our dog spends much more time in that car than my clients. And cops like dogs a lot more than lawyers.

I got "CARRYK9" and couldn't believe it. 35 million people in this state and that's available. We've gotten a lot of mileage out of it. Dog-park folks love it.

My brother Wes, whom I believe you know, recognized the plate and chased down my wife with hiking-friends on the 8 out near Alpine. One of the women in the car said, "Why is that guy honking at us? We're not that hot."

Also, my wife recently got a ticket out there, and the cop was almost apologetic about it. That wouldn't have happened if the plates said "TCJ LAW." Best $35 I ever spent.

T.C. Johnston, LL.M.


rgcumbia March 2, 2009 @ 9:51 a.m.

One of my buddies in high school personalized the plates on his 280Z. I think it was MOY Z. When he sold the car, he kept the plates. He was quite a player and he did not want his reputation hurt by the new owner of his car. The plates are hanging in his "man cave" now.

His wife of many years does not care about his stories of his boy toy youth. No that it bothers her, she is just very secure. I told her about a time I borrowed his car to go cruising on the Boulevard and girls kept jumping from other cars into the 280Z. They were quite dissapointed to see it was me not mu buddy. A few of them had boyfriends or were married. So I let them know that now I knew they were my buddies "hoes"! So personalized license plates work! I would never get one though.


Duhbya March 2, 2009 @ 9:55 a.m.

Best plate I ever saw was in Casa De Oro at least twenty years ago. It was on a Porsche and read WTFOVER. The guy was talking on a pay phone and I interrupted saying "Nice tag". He then told me that the DMV had called him on it, and he quick-wittedly answered that that had been the name of his flight squadron in Vietnam.


Josh Board March 2, 2009 @ 10:18 a.m.

T.C...I can't place who Wes is, sorry. I had a friend growing up, named Wes Jones that I've been looking for. I can't place a Wes Johnston, though. Regarding cops and getting tickets, I was once swerving around the Balboa Park area. Since my plate says WSKYBAR, the cop said "How much whiskey have you had tonight, sir?" Luckily, it was just something bothering my contact lense, and he didn't give me the ticket (I've also had people ask if it is SKY BAR, which is the name of a place Cindy Crawfords husband used to own).

I've had friends that have "police support" bumper stickers, and they swear that gets them out of tickets. Whatever. I'm not sure I believe that, or would even want a goofy sticker like that on my car, but who knows. A cop I dated that lives in Poway...I've thrown her name out there and got out of a few tickets, so maybe bumper stickers and plates work.

Duhbya: I get the WTF part, but not sure I get the "OVER" part of that plate.

Something from the original version of the story that was edited out:

Bay Park resident Joni George told me she had a plate that read THX MOMY.

“I bought the car with the inheritance when my mom died. I was thanking her for the car. But when I first got it, I wondered if people would get the meaning out of context and think my mom just gave me the car and then think less of me. I don’t want someone thinking an expensive car was given to me, when in actuality, it was a tribute to my deceased mother.”


tcjohnston March 2, 2009 @ 11:02 a.m.


Re my brother Wes, you met him a few times: Memory keywords are "Jillian; blond; ex-boyfriend." I'll say no more.

Re stickers on cars: My wife has a Ford Focus bought from a firefighter that came with that SDFD sticker. She also put an equestrian sticker on. No empirical evidence that it helps, but also never a ticket in that car.

And editing can be painful. THX MOMY was a good bit.

The Doors: I was a fanatic late 70s, but burned out for 20+ years. Now I can listen to them again (unlike Rush). "L.A. Woman" is probably the fave, but "I'm gonna build me a woman, make her 10 feet tall" is the sound worm.

I love your involvement here.



Duhbya March 2, 2009 @ 11:21 a.m.

WTFOVER was/is a colloquialism popularized somewhere in the 70's and still in use today (I assume). It generally takes the form of a question and is usually used to amplify the ludicrousness of a given situation. Probably has ties to the CB radio craze of the mid to late 70's, over. An example might be: "So this cop pulls me over for a taillight not working. I get out to look at it and it's working fine. The cop says it wasn't when I stopped you. I mean, what the fu**, over?"


SurfPuppy619 March 2, 2009 @ 11:24 a.m.

You know what......one of the BEST plates ever was right here in San Diego-La Jolla to be exact.

It belonged to Audrey Geisel, wife of Ted "Dr. Suess" Geisel, and she used to drive a fancy Cadillac around La Jolla Shores with the personalized plate;


Coolest plate I have ever seen!

Anyone else see that plate around town?????

Unfortunatley I believe Ms Geisel died a few years back.


Barbarella Fokos March 2, 2009 @ 12:17 p.m.

My dad says Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over. From the Navy days, but it's always relevant. ;)


Josh Board March 2, 2009 @ 5:31 p.m.

TC: Oh yeah, I remember Wes. Met him a few times. He told a great story (opposite of ones here with cops NOT giving people tickets), police thinking his eye problems mean he's on drugs. He's a great guy. You only needed one of those three words for me to remember him...hehehehehe. I guess a fire department thing would get you out of some tickets. I was with my stepbrother when a cop let him off of a ticket, saying "My wife is a teacher, too. I never give teachers tickets." But, most teachers probably do, with the cop saying "My teachers in high school always gave me bad grades. So...you're getting this ticket!" Who knows, although I have no problem with cops not giving other cops tickets. It makes sense.

If someone got a RUSH license plate, their car might be keyed by someone thinking it was for Rush Limbaugh. You'd need to squeeze in a 2112. Or have it on a red Barchetta or something.

I have no idea why the DMV would care about WTFOVER, as even if you knew what the WTF stood for, who cares? It's not a curse word.

In the DMV handbook on personalized plates, they do say something interesting. If a word IS NOT a curse word now, but someday becomes one, or ends up with a slang meaning, they will pull it. Even if that wasn't your intent. They care very little about intent, it's about how other drivers interpret it NOW. But when authorities go down this path, it's very odd. I had a friend on the football team in high school, who wasn't allowed to wear his jersey in the group photo. He was #69. Now, it's one thing if he was holding up a sign with that number, but it's on his jersey, along with lots of the other football players that had their jerseys on (and weren't asked to take them off).

Regarding Dr. Seuss...I would think his first wife (who wrote a few of his early books), would think that she was a Grinch. After all, he stole her husband, and she killed herself because of that (and lingering cancer problems).


tcjohnston March 2, 2009 @ 8:10 p.m.


My brother Wes' story is only great in retrospect. But I'm sure he wasn't embellishing when he told it to you. I was there. He was stone-cold sober, we had to cancel our show in North Park, and I bailed him out later. A nightmare. I've worn out my King Stahlman t-shirt -- need a new one. RIP Mr. Stahlman.

Didn't thing about how my "Rush" burnout tied into my Rush Limbaugh hatred. Good thing I don't do stickers on the car.



gavin_bowlby March 3, 2009 @ 3:36 p.m.

Great story! I think there was a game show in the 80's based on trying to guess what personalized plates stood for, this article made me try to guess what the plates were. It's fun trying to guess what the plates are. I wonder sometimes if phrases are created that look like the vanilla California plate syntax of:

Number Letter Letter Letter Number Number Number

1LOV420 - a doper 1LIV969 - Methuselah fan 1LUV911 - ambulance chaser. or terrorist's plate 1STP211 - cop's plate ...


reggie13021 March 3, 2009 @ 5:25 p.m.

I've seen a couple of cases where someone added punctuation or symbols to their personalized plates with a marker or stickers. I wonder how often the cops let that slide.

Also, I'm sure that somewhere out there, there's a Van Halen fan with "OU812" on their plate. If you see them, stay far away, they are obviously mentally unstable.


readergal March 3, 2009 @ 9:23 p.m.

Fun article about the license plates and cool to see my neighbor on the video and learn the meaning of her plates.


Josh Board March 3, 2009 @ 11:38 p.m.

Gavin: I lost a bet with my girlfriend over a year ago. I had never noticed that pattern of of number, letter letter letter, numbers. So in a parking lot, there was a combo that looked like: 1BOB414. I said "I wonder why Bob did that to his plates." She laughed and said "That's not a personalized plate." We bet dinner on it, and asked the guy. I lost, and found out that the plates have a pattern I had never noticed (I guess I keep my eyes on the road while driving...hehehehehe).

Reggie: I wondered that, too! Because you can't have anything obstructing your plates, and sometimes those clear covers are really dirty, and I'm sure cops give fix-it tickets for that. And, regarding VH...I'd be more scared if it was a 5150 plate!

Hey...everyone heard about the woman in Cleveland breast feeding her baby, while talking on the cell phone, right? Well...

In the Journal, from May 3, 2007, there was a story about a woman that was denied the plate BRSTFDR by the California DMV. She posted that her civil rights had been violated.

After a similar form letter to mine, and actually talking to someone on the phone, she posted, “I said it was ridiculous and that everything will offend someone. Either allow BRSTFDR or disallow all personalized plates. It didn't have profanity in it!”

And, she has a point. I interviewed these guys in a car club dedicated to "Woody's." If someone is offended because of the slang with that word, would it be revoked?


Josh Board March 3, 2009 @ 11:49 p.m.

readergal: I'll assume your neighbor is the one with OOSIK or whatever that was. All the other plates are self-explanitory.

But on the topic of videos, my friend and I did a funny video as a joke for this story, but it's not posted. He has a BMW with a personalized plate, and an SUV with a regular plate. I had him standing in front of his SUV at the mall, and the joke was for me to approach him asking if he has a personalized plate. He looks down saying "Uh...yeah. This is it." The camera pans down, and you can clearly see it's not. He then says, "The number 8 is because I collected Matchbox cars when I was 8. The letter C is for the Chargers, because I'm a big fan. And, uh...the letter Q is because this car is 'quick'." This goes on with each letter/number on his plate, and you quickly realize that this person is just making this stuff up. I then say "Really? Your plate means that? It looks like just a random series of numbers and letters." He then looks at the camera, looks down at the plate, and runs. My camera is focused on him as he runs out of the frame.

Well, as we were filming, there was an old lady putting groceries in her car, that just happened to be a few spaces over. As he starts running away, she looks up. I'm catching this out of the corner of my eye, thinking she's going to call the cops or something. Instead, in this Clara Peller/Where's the Beef? voice, she says "I don't think that plate is personalized. Or that the car even belongs to him!" It was classic.


bluenwhitegokart March 10, 2009 @ 2:40 a.m.

Man, I tried going through the comments while having my morning coffee and watching the news, but now I have to go to work.

Barb: I have a 2002 Mini. You might surmise from my screen name that it is white on blue (coincidently, the colors of my alma mater, Penn State). It's also an early number in the first launch edition of Minis inported into Canada, for whatever that's worth. All it means to me is that the temp is perpetually in Celcius, and not Farenheit. If I had to do it again, I'd buy an "S" model. At around 70mph, the RPMs are over 3,000, which I don't like to run a car at that RPM. It definitely needs another gear (the base models only having 5 speeds).


BV23 March 13, 2009 @ 8:30 a.m.

Gavin, I totally remember that show! Like all the great bad TV that I've been sucked into, it was taken off...along with Double Trouble and Nowhere Man.

As for personalized plates, I will probably never have one. I do, however, like the time-passing game of figuring out other people's plates. That...and talking on my cell phone while nursing my baby.


Josh Board March 16, 2009 @ 3:16 p.m.

Two license plate updates: I was behind a blue Smart car in North Park. It had a plate that said ENSTYN.

And, a friend of mine that's a cop once ran into Tony Gwynn at a gas station. His Mercedes had PADS 19.


Josh Board April 8, 2009 @ 4:36 p.m.


Just saw on the news, that a hard-core Vegan in Colorado, that loves TOFU, wanted a plate that said ILVTOFU

The DMV deemed this could be misunderstood and seen as something dirty.


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