Warning: This story contains allusions to language that some people may find offensive.
Starting at $150 a year, the State of Texas will let you personalize the license plate on your vehicle, but the combination of letters and numbers cannot invoke anything the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles considers to be indecent.
“We don’t allow plates with vulgarity, references to vulgar words, derogatory expressions to people and groups,” said Tim Thompson, deputy director of the Vehicle Titles and Registration Division at the Texas DMV.
The screeners at the DMV in the past year have ruled out terms such as “WHTRASH,” “KISS MYA” and “FAHQYOO,” according to records obtained through a public information request.
“We actually do get a lot of requests that do refer to vulgarities,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t have thought that whenever I took this job.”
A team of five employees pores through an average of 130 requests a day, trying to catch creative arrangements of letters and numbers that may have slipped through their filter. The screeners blocked “BATCHIT,” “OMW2FYW” and “PHOKYEW” in the past year.
“The average Texas citizen is a pretty clever person to come up with some pretty innovative ways to express their thoughts,” Thompson said.
The sensitivity to derogatory language even extends to seemingly innocuous slang, such as “CANUCK,” which can be used as a derogatory term for Canadians, although a professional hockey team uses the name.
Disparaging swipes at the president were also vetoed by state workers, according to the review of records dating to the start of 2017. “NO TRUMP” was rejected as a personalized plate around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Other anti-Trump plates that didn’t get past screeners included “EF TRUMP,” “FKTRUMP” and “FUTRUMP.”
The screeners try to stay on top of anything that might hint at drug use, too, because mentions of illegal activity are prohibited. “DAT PURP,” “BLAZINN” and “WHIPET” were all rejected in the last year.
Another banned category includes anything that might misidentify the vehicle as being associated with law enforcement. “POLICE1,” “K9RSQ” and “NVYCOP” were all rejected last year.
The vast majority of plate applications contain no objectionable content. Of the 24.5 million vehicles registered with the state, about 200,000 – or 0.8 percent – have custom plates. The MyPlates program has generated $62 million in revenue for Texas since 2009.
“The truth is at this point when you’ve literally read thousands and thousands and thousands of them, you kind of lose, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the best one ever,’ kind of deal,” Thompson said.
“You get kind of desensitized to it.”