11 Controversial Vanity License Plates

Scott Vandehey, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Scott Vandehey, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Scott Vandehey, Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Most vanity plates are pretty benign, a little seven-letter puzzle of numbers and letters that reveals driver's love of the Cubs or dachshunds or Quidditch. This list of revoked (and sometimes reinstated) plates is a little more controversial than that. Check out 11 letter combos that would definitely make your head turn if you spotted them on the highway.

1. GOES211

Anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with This is Spinal Tap knows that “Goes to 11” is referring to an amplifier. It would seem that a man named Johnny Dixon is unfamiliar with David St. Hubbins or Nigel Tufnel, because he wrote the Washington Department of Licensing to complain when he saw those plates. “I find it in poor taste that the great state of Washington would issue a plate that allows a driver to insinuate in public that his penis grows to 11 inches in length,” his complaint letter said. “The rest of the citizens of Washington should not be subjected to this vulgarity.” The owner of the license plate was ultimately allowed to keep it. “The complaint was, pardon my pun, a stretch,” said Department of Licensing spokesman Brad BenfIeld.


You’d think that most people are aware of the meaning of “MILF” ever since American Pie invaded our vernacular and forever tainted our image of wholesome baked goods. The good people of the Washington State Department of Licensing, however, were clueless when they received an application for a personalized plate that read “GOTMILF,” along with the explanation that “MILF” meant “Manual Inline Lift Fluctuator.” After other motorists called to complain, the man explained that “GOTMILF” really stood for “Got Married Into Lisa’s Family” and was allegedly a wedding present for his wife. The department of licensing didn’t buy the excuse the second time around. The man’s second choice, by the way, was “SUPL8EZ.”


North Dakotan Brian Magee, co-host of a radio show called “Amplified Atheist,” applied for a license plate declaring his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in 2010. It was denied. After an appeal process that included a trip to the North Dakota Attorney General, Magee won the right to put the plates on his Grand Cherokee. Steven Miles, an atheist in Florida, had a similar experience. His 1994 Camry had proudly declared “ATHEIST” for 16 years when the state revoked the plates after receiving a letter of complaint signed by 12 individuals. The DMV eventually reversed the judgment and allowed Miles to keep the plates.


In 2007, South Dakotan Heather Morijah and her boyfriend got his-and-hers license plates. His said “IMPCH W” and hers read “MPEACHW.” A few months later, Morijah got a letter from the DMV stating that she had to surrender the plate within 10 days due to complaints. On the advice of her lawyer, Morijah went to the media. The DMV refused to back down, publicly stating that they might be forced to make law enforcement collect the plates if she wouldn’t give them up voluntarily. That’s when the national media got involved, including CNN. The ACLU of the Dakotas sent the DMV a letter about censoring political speech, and miraculously, the decision was reversed a couple of days later.

5. IB6UB9

Robert Anaya of New Mexico had been tooling around the state with “IB6UB9” license plates for close to three years before the Taxation and Revenue Department understood the sexual reference. Anaya claims it’s an inside joke from a night out at a casino with friends and is currently fighting to get his plates back.


The Colorado DMV nixed a vegan’s seven-letter love note to everyone’s favorite bean curd in 2009. “We don’t allow FU because some people could read that as street language for sex,” a Department of Revenue spokesman said. The woman who hoped to own the license plate was slightly bewildered. “My whole family is vegan so tofu is like a staple for us,” she told the Denver Post. But she's not alone: Tennessee, Florida and Virgina have all rejected "ILVTOFU" plates.


F Osama? Not if the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has anything to say about it (and it turns out they do). Even though Rick Sanders had been driving the anti-Osama Bin Laden plates for more than seven years, the DMV sent him a letter in 2012 explaining that they made a mistake in issuing them. Sanders played slightly coy about what the “F” meant: “It can be anything you want—fight Osama, forget Osama, or... anything you want.” Nevertheless, he stopped using the plates and received replacements from the DMV—a set he happened to find offensive. “6668UP,” he says, means “The devil ate you up.”


In 2009, a group of Neo-Nazis were having a meeting in Oregon. Among the group of cars gathered at the meeting was one with the plate “NO ZOG.” Protesters noticed and issued complaints, which resulted in the plate being pulled. ZOG means “Zionist Occupied Government" and is a form of anti-Semitism. Jimmy Marr, the man who owned the plates, declined to explain why he chose such a sentiment and hung up on the reporter who called to ask.


“You may have grown fond of your personalized plates,” the state of Virginia wrote in a letter to David Phillips in 2007, but said they were being pulled for being “socially, racially or ethnically offensive or disparaging.” For those who don’t know their British slang, “poofter” refers to a gay man. Phillips had the plates on his car for more than a decade before the state realized what it meant. It’s less offensive, he says, than “NANCBOY,” which is what his car proclaimed—without issue or complaint—before he heard of the term “poofter” and changed his plates to that instead. “It’s just an amusing word I self-identify with,” Phillips said.


Brooke Bennett-Manas of Las Vegas had been amusing fellow drivers for more than four years before the DMV decided her vanity plates weren’t so funny. But Bennett-Manas had the last laugh: the DMV reinstated her plates a few days later, saying the phrase didn’t clearly fall into one of the prohibited categories.


When a police officer spotted a 2003 Chevy Cavalier sporting these plates around Puyallup, Washington, he saw something other than an extreme Insane Clown Posse Fan proclaiming her enthusiasm for the band. Officer Mike Lusk saw a license plate that proclaimed enthusiasm for a criminal street gang. Juggalos, AKA fans of the band, have been officially classified as a non-traditional gang by the FBI and several states. The plate was revoked, as was another plate that read JUGGALO.