You can wear your heart on your sleeve, but not necessarily on your license plate.
Whether you will be allowed to pay $25 to squeeze your preferred beer brand, favorite nighttime activity, random thought, or true passion onto that tinny rectangle on the back of your car — or whether you will be denied — is at the discretion of the Arizona Department of Transportation.
To date, the department has disapproved precisely 35,727 vanity plate applications. Phoenix New Times obtained these rejections through a public records request and scrolled through them all, an experience that felt a bit like swimming through the collective id of Arizonans.
What did we find? Unsurprisingly, a lot of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, with a few surprises (some extremely unpleasant) thrown in, and enough permutations and combinations of letters for numbers and numbers for letters to make a mathematician proud. We noticed too that somehow, TAMPON and TAMPAX made the rejected list.
Here are the highlights of our findings:
Let's begin with a handful of the 69-based license numbers that never made it to a plate: 69 (thrice), 269, 369, 469, and 6969. 666999. ME6UB9. TIME269. The reject list also had the inevitable, innumerable references to body parts — 8OO8IES, A55BUTT, CLITROS, to name just a few — with creative combinations of digits and letters forming nonetheless detectable references to balls and boobies, BAMFs and bitches, banging, and big dicks and butts. Based on this list, we have concluded Arizona has hundreds of self-proclaimed badasses.
We learned, too, that people will test just about every form of expletive out there — 00HSHT, 00SH1T, AWSHT, DAAAAAM, DAAAAM, DAAAAMM, DAAAAMN, DAAAMMM, DAAAMMN, DAAAMN, all the F-bombs you can imagine, anything that starts with WTF — and that they are also ready to KICKACE, KICKAS, KICKASH, KICKASP, KICKASS, KICKASZ, KICKAX, and KICKBT.
The list demonstrated the enduring hilarity of fecal matter and/or flatulence (0DOODO0, AHFART, AWWPOOP, FECES, IF4RTED, IPOOTED), the eternal willingness to brag about sexual prowess (1GODOWN, 1GETWET, BABYMKR), and an abiding affection for that drink or two at the end of the day (HAPYOUR, BDWISER, BDWIZER, BACRDI, BAILEY5, CHRDNAY, CPTMRGN, HOMBRWR, JAGMSTR, JAGRBOM, LVWHSKY, SRVEZA, WINEPLZ). If you want your vanity plate to be approved, omit any mention of any form of alcohol, digestive functions, or sex.
We found too many variations on "zero fucks given" to count (0PHX2GV, 0PHXGVN, 0FUXGVN, 0FUXX, 0FXSGVN, ZEROFKS, ZEROFUX) and a few, not-even-New-Times-would-joke-about-this eyebrow-scrunchers, if they amounted to real confessions: DRUGDLR, AARYAN, AXMRDR, CANIBAL, LYCHMOB, RACEWAR, and epithets we're not typing. RACEWAR? Seriously?
More than a few rejected vanity plates would have warned the drivers behind them, like BAKTFUP, 0FFMYA5, 1HAULAS, and HALZASS, while others had an invitation to turn local driving into the Indy 500: RACEU, RACEYA.
In addition to any references to wine, beer, booze, alcohol, or other brews, ADOT also killed references to pot. 420, TIME420, PURPHAZ? Not happening.
Still, we want to give an A for effort to at least a few of the applications, which stood a cut above the rest in creativity and singularity: BACHPLS, BARFLY, CANCRFU, EATALY, ELCHAPO, IDGARA, IFIXSHT, LOLSMOG, PHXFTW, PHXSCKS, SAFESEX, WHINERS, WHYNO, and YAHWE.
We also greatly appreciated the people who tried to use license plates to normalize women's periods (because the world still has a LOT of work to do on that). To PMSNBAD, PMSONE, PMSQEN, TAMPAX, and TAMPON, keep fighting the good fight. We don't fully understand how references to tampons could be rejected, based on ADOT's criteria.
When asked how ADOT rejects or accepts vanity plate applications, Doug Nick, a spokesperson for the department, referred to Arizona statute, which says that personalized license plates cannot conflict with or duplicate existing plates.
It can also revoke or refuse to issue "any combination of letters or numbers or any combination of letters and numbers that carries connotations that are offensive to good taste and decency."
When asked why TAMPAX and TAMPON were rejected, Nick told New Times in an email, "As you can see by the list, requests that refer to bodily functions such as urination, defecation, menstruation, etc., are not approved."
Intriguingly, DENIED itself was denied not once, not twice, but three times.
ADOT's rejected list "goes back many years," Nick wrote. "We update as needed."
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